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Vermont Lieutenant Governor gives testimony on draft election reform laws

David Zuckerman
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman (file)

A committee of the Vermont House is considering a bill that would change some of the state’s election laws. The lieutenant governor testified today about one of the provisions that would directly impact his campaigns.

Draft bill 23-0705is currently under review by the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs. It proposes seven changes to Vermont election statutes including: prohibiting losing primary candidates from running in the general election; updating the independent candidate filing deadline; allowing political parties to accept unlimited contributions from candidates; and requiring registration for write-in candidates.

When the measure was first reviewed in the committee on February 2nd Legislative Counsel Tim Devlin noted another proposed change.

“Cross nomination or what’s also sometimes referred to as fusion voting. A candidate may only list a single party next to the candidate’s name on the general election ballot.”

Berkshire Republican Lisa Hango asked committee chair Michael McCarthy, a St. Albans Democrat, about the provision’s origins.

“And do we ask now where this came from, this idea?”

“This is an idea that I have supported for a long time," replied McCarthy, "and that I included in this bill for discussion by the committee.”

The committee is now taking testimony on the proposal. A number of Vermont politicians receive cross nominations including Democrat and Progressive Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman. He told committee members one-third of the legislature has multiple party labels.

“Has that been detrimental to the process? Are people terribly upset? Do you hear an uprising from the general public that they're really angry?”

Committee Chair McCarthy responded, leading to Hango learning more about the origins of the proposal.

“In Franklin County," McCarthy asserts, "absolutely yes.”

“Were you just saying," inquires Hango, " that Franklin County voters don't understand the differentiation?”

“The issue that came up in the Franklin County Sheriff's race," explains McCarthy, "has absolutely caused a lot of people in Franklin County to question whether it makes sense to have the party nominations go the way that they go. That's the specific impetus for me putting these couple of provisions out on the table for us to discuss this year.”

"So that's good to know why you put it out," offers Hango. "But I don't think that it was a Republican, Democrat or Independent or Progressive issue in the Franklin County Sheriff's race at all.”

But for McCarthy, “It’s the heart of the matter for me.”

Returning to Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman, he said the dual label provides greater flexibility in expressing political philosophy.

“And it gives people a general understanding of the direction that person leans on a wide range of issues. Dual party labels, I think give more transparency not less in most instances.”

The Lieutenant Governor also weighed in on each of the other provisions in the bill, finding most of them problematic for fair elections.

“I will say that overarching with any of these changes, and I think there are some provisions in the proposal that are good, many of these provisions actually consolidate party power, and reduce transparency, and reduce options for voters. And I think that's the wrong way to go.”