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A look at the primary race for Vermont Secretary of State

Screenshot of VTDigger's Vermont Secretary of State debate
Screenshot of VTDigger's Vermont Secretary of State debate

The Vermont Secretary of State’s race is among the top offices with competitive primaries this year. Three Democrats are on the ballot in the August 9th primary.

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos announced on February 15th that he would retire after nearly a dozen years.

Two days later Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters announced he would run for the seat.

“I will bring my hard-earned experience and intimate knowledge of the operations of the Secretary of State’s office to the top job. I want to ensure stability and continuity at a time when conducting elections has gotten more complicated than ever. And I want people to know that this office is not just about elections. We do so much more than that and we don’t need a politician in charge. We need an experienced manager.”

Montpelier city clerk John Odum entered the Democratic primary on March 14th, saying he wants to bring the perspective of a municipal clerk to the office.

"As clerks we have that firsthand experience dealing with not only elections but archiving, with local licensing. These are functions that are managed at the Secretary of State’s level but you know bringing that sort of person, community perspective to it can only be a positive thing.”

The third Democrat hoping to be elected Secretary of State is Bradford House Representative and Government Operations Committee chair Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who joined the race on April 28th. During a VTDigger debate she said she has been working to secure voter rights and can strengthen the office.

“I’m running for Vermont Secretary of State to ensure that all Vermonters can have their voices heard in Vermont elections. Under my leadership in the House, I have prioritized election reforms that put civic engagement and voter accessibility at the forefront. As your next Secretary of State I will continue to lead the charge on strengthening democracy and preserving democracy in Vermont.”

But Republican H. Brooke Paige, who does not have a primary opponent, says the initiatives supported by the Democrats are causing chaos in the elections process. During a League of Women Voters debate he said the Secretary of State’s office must end programs such as ranked choice voting and universal mail-in ballots.

“Our elections fidelity should not be compromised for the sake of speed or convenience. To be clear, voting in person on Election Day is a proud tradition that must be preserved. Early and absentee voting should remain as a way to ensure that citizens who are unavailable on Election Day can exercise their voting franchise. Election Day should be a state holiday to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote.”

Outgoing Secretary of State Condos says Deputy Secretary of State Winters, who is running to replace him, has not been in the office since last week and will not return through the election.

“We decided early on that we were going to ask him not to be here in the office just to take that perception out of the discussion and we’ve decided that he will not be here this week or the early part of next week. So he’s using his vacation and leave time.”

Progressive Robert Millar is also running for Secretary of State.

Vermont’s primary is Tuesday, August 9th.

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