(Host) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says the increase in the number of “major” political parties in Vermont is driving up the cost of holding state primaries.
Markowitz has a plan to deal with this situation but Vermont’s Progressive Party thinks her proposal is a terrible idea.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) To qualify as a “major” political party in Vermont, one of the party’s statewide candidates must receive at least 5% of the vote and the party must formally organize in at least 15 towns.
This year Vermont has four major political parties: The Republicans, the Democrats, the Progressives and Liberty Union.
Under state law, all major parties must select their statewide candidates by holding a primary on the second Tuesday in September.
Secretary of State Deb Markowitz is concerned about the cost of holding primaries for parties that are likely to attract very few voters:
(Markowitz) “It costs just in paper alone just in the printing costs alone about $50,000 for every ballot that has to be printed. There’s additional costs for the programming costs of the optical scan machines in the communities that have them. So the costs associated with each primary ballot is pretty significant for the state. And the question is, is there a significant benefit to the parties? Is there a significant benefit to the public?”
(Kinzel) Markowitz wants the Legislature in January to consider creating a two tiered major party system. This could be done by increasing the number of towns that a party has to be organized in from 15 to perhaps 50.
Markowitz says the larger parties would still hold a primary but the smaller parties would be allowed to select candidates at a caucus – it’s a move that would save the state over $100,000.
Anthony Pollina is the acting chair of the Progressive Party. He strongly opposes this two tiered approach.
(Pollina) “Ultimately what it does is it relegates some parties to a lower status. They’re thinking of democracy in terms of the cost of printing ballots and we’re thinking of democracy in terms of public participation. And you get more voters you get more public participation through an election than you do through a caucus system, where a group of people get together in an auditorium somewhere and make a decision.”
(Kinzel) Pollina says if lawmakers want to consider a significant change to the state’s election system, they should support the implementation of an instant run off voting plan for all statewide offices.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier