From the reporter's notebook:
Plan for the day: to drive from the north side of the state to the south on Route 7, checking in along the way with Vermonters at the polls.
11:15 AM: Before headed north to Swanton to officially start my trip south, I took a slight detour to cast my own vote at Colchester High School.
Outside, Brian Boone, a volunteer on the Matt Dunne campaign, stood in the sun trying to sway undecided voters. Boone, 22, is a political science major at St. Michael's College. He spent the summer volunteering for Dunne, mostly because he couldn't find a job. The Malletts Bay native plans to stay there until the polls close at 7 PM. "I'm out here for the long haul," he said. "Hope I don't get sunburned."
Inside, about a dozen people were either waiting for ballots or casting their votes. Town Clerk Karen Richard told me that turnout thus far had already surpassed the last primary from two years ago. She said that, by Monday morning, she'd had more than 400 early votes, and the machine where I inserted my ballot read 323. In contrast, she had only 200 voters, total, in the last primary. Richard sent out just one absentee ballot to a service member overseas.
12:30 PM: After a quick run up I-89, I made my first official stop on Route 7 for a quick lunch at the My-T Fine Restaurant and Pub in Swanton. Parked next to a Ford F-150 pickup with a license plate that read "GRAIN." There were a few political signs around, such as "Beaudry for Congress" and "Walmart Now — Enough Is Enough." Ostensibly, I was there to see how people were voting in the auditor's race between Ed Flanagan and Doug Hoffer. However, judging by the vast number of Brian Dubie signs along the road, it seemed unlikely I'd find many people voting on the Dem ballot.
None of the five fellas at the lunch counter had voted yet — nor could they direct me to the nearest polling place. For that, I had to ask the elderly couple seated beside me, who'd just come from voting in Highgate. They'd both cast ballots in the Democratic primary. I asked who'd they voted for in the auditor's race.
"Not Ed Flanagan," the woman told me. "All that stuff in the paper? We need someone who can do the job."
1:10 PM: Just down the road at the Swanton Municipal Complex, Town Clerk Doris Raleigh confirmed that turnout had been heavier than usual — 503 out of a total of 3712 voters in all of Swanton. I asked if the $5 million bond for a water treatment upgrade had affected the turnout.
She laughed. "This is the third time it's come up for a vote," Raleigh said. "Last time only 40 people voted."
Headed south in search of more voters and free WI-FI...