Vermont's 2020 primary election is on pace to break the state's voter turnout record.
By mid-afternoon Monday, according to the Secretary of State's Office, municipal clerks had received at least 110,022 ballots. That's more than the 107,637 votes cast in the entire 2018 primary election. With absentee ballots still trickling in — and a full day of conventional, in-person voting scheduled for Tuesday — final voter turnout numbers are likely to grow.
"I'm excited by the amount of the turnout so far," Secretary of State Jim Condos told reporters Monday morning.
According to records provided by Condos' office, turnout this year has already surpassed that of all but two primary elections in the past 25 years. In the year 2000 — the first election after the state recognized civil unions for same-sex couples — 122,437 Vermonters voted in the state primary. In 2016, when there were open races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, 120,132 Vermonters voted in the primary.
"I would suspect we could break that [record], but I'm not gonna go out on a limb and say to you that we will," Condos said.
He attributed this year's high turnout to a number of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, which he referred to as "the elephant in the room." That prompted his office to encourage early voting and to send postcards to every registered voter enabling them to easily request an absentee ballot.
"What also drives voting is contested elections," Condos said, noting that there are party primaries this year for governor, lieutenant governor and auditor of accounts. He also pointed to contested legislative races, citing in particular the crowded race to represent Chittenden County in the state Senate.
Precisely how many more Vermonters still intend to vote is unclear, though a record 153,061 people requested absentee ballots this year. In order to be counted, those ballots must be received by municipal clerks by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11. Voters may drop off completed absentee ballots that day. They may also request a new ballot if theirs was misplaced. Vermont allows for those who are not registered to vote to register on Election Day.