Election day is finally here. State officials are expecting a strong voter turnout that will determine the outcome of numerous local, state and federal races.
For months, voters have been bombarded with TV ads from candidates and Super PAC groups that have often emphasized the negative aspects of a particular candidate.
In addition to the presidential race, Vermont voters will choose a U.S. Senator, a U.S. House member, a Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Auditor, Secretary of State, and all members of the Legislature.
Now the key is voter turnout. Middlebury College retired political science professor Eric Davis says some political organizations have been preparing for Election Day for many months.
"Ground game means a field organization that works on identifying supporters, persuading undecided voters to become supporters, and then making sure that the supporters go to the polls."
It’s estimated that early voting will account for roughly 25 percent of all votes cast this year. Davis says the shift to early voting has helped change political strategies for the final few weeks of the campaign.
"All candidates that have a strong field organization will emphasize early voting," said Davis. "Candidates like to identify their strong supporters as early as possible get those votes into the ballot box so they can devote their attention in the last two weeks of the campaign to more undecided or weakly committed voters.
Currently, Vermont is one of just two states in the country that maintain a two year term for statewide officeholders. New Hampshire is the other state. Davis says this system could lead to some voter fatigue but he doesn’t see it changing anytime soon.
"The fact that going to a four-year term requires a constitutional amendment and Vermont’s constitution is one of the most difficult to amend of any state in the country makes it likely that we’ll continue to have the two year term," said Davis. "Of course the two year term is one of the things contributes to the incumbents advantages because incumbents can campaign while holding office while pretending they aren’t campaigning."
There are also a number of local ballot initiatives being decided today. Burlington voters will consider a $9 million "fiscal stability bond", and while residents of Waterbury Village vote on whether to abolish their local police department, voters in Essex will consider a plan to build a larger headquarters for its law enforcement personnel.