Vermonters will go to the polls Tuesday for the state’s primary elections, though many already have cast ballots through early voting and vote-by-mail options.
The three candidates in the state’s most closely-watched contest — for the Democrats’ nomination for U.S. House in November’s general election — focused on get-out-the-vote efforts Monday.
Molly Gray, the current lieutenant governor, and Louis Meyers, a physician, are each positioning themselves as moderate choices.
"I also use the term 'realistic Democrat,'" Meyers told NECN & NBC10 Boston, describing himself. "I have some of the same aspirations as the Progressives, but I recognize that if we’re going to get there, it’s going to have to be in a different way than some of the far-left people."
Meyers and Gray have painted the third candidate in the race, Becca Balint, as to the left of most Vermonters.
"The choice Vermonters have is: do they want to send the next member of ‘the Squad’ or the Congressional Progressive Caucus to Washington? The next Bernie Sanders?" Gray said in an interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston Monday. "Or do they want to send the next Pat Leahy or Peter Welch? Someone who’s a pragmatic Democrat, who has a track record of working across the aisle?"
Gray called herself a "next-generation" leader, who will serve all corners of the state if elected to Congress.
Balint, however, rejected her opponents’ criticism.
"I’m an effective legislator," Balint insisted in an interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston Monday, adding that she doesn’t have much use for labels, since she has dealt with them her entire adult life as a gay woman.
The former teacher said any claim that she is too far left simply doesn’t square with her record of coalition-building as leader of the Vermont Senate, where she notched legislative wins on housing and gun reforms.
"We have such a broad coalition on this campaign," Balint said between get-out-the-vote stops. "I’ve got Republicans who have endorsed, Progressives, Independents who never endorse, and of course, a lot of Democrats. People want to feel like they have a place on this campaign, and my final pitch would be: everybody has a place on this campaign."
Balint emphasized that Vermont voters keep telling her they are worried about the future of U.S. Democracy, following the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Balint pledged to stand up for the Constitution and find ways to build bridges in Congress to make progress for Vermonters.
Additional statements from Balint, Gray, and Meyers are available in this story NECN published last month.
Whichever Democrat clinches their party’s primary will face off with the winner of the Republican contest between Liam Madden, Anya Tynio, and Ericka Bundy Redic. Barbara Nolfi is the only name on Progressive Party ballots.
Many people will be closely watching the voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary.
"This is certainly the most exciting primary that I can remember," observed Sarah Mason, the town clerk of Williston. "There’s a lot more interest in a primary, which some voters kind of tend to sit out and wait for November and see what will be on the ballot in November — which, really, if you want your person on the ballot in November you should be voting in August."
Middlebury College political scientist Matt Dickinson agreed there seems to be more interest in this primary election than in other primaries.
"There just hasn’t been an open seat," Dickinson noted, referring to the U.S. House race. "If anything is going to motivate individuals to get to the polls for what are historically low-turnout events, I think this would be it."
Along with the vacant U.S. House seat, political parties will choose nominees for an open U.S. Senate seat as well as for open seats for lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, and secretary of state. Additional races for state representatives, state senators, state’s attorneys and others should drive Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives alike to turn out strong to cast ballots in their respective parties’ primaries Tuesday, Dickinson and Mason predicted.
Vermont allows for same-day voter registration. Additionally, 17-year-olds can vote in primaries in the state, too, as long as they’ll turn 18 in time for the general election in November.
The secretary of state’s office said all polls in Vermont will be open by 10 a.m., and all must be closed by 7 p.m. Most open earlier than 10 a.m.
Check this website or the office of your town or city clerk to confirm the location and operating hours of your polling place.
If voters obtained a ballot early, but have not yet returned it, they should return their completed ballot directly to their polling place on Tuesday, the secretary of state said. Unvoted ballots from the other political parties you are not voting in should be returned along with the completed ballots, elections officials emphasized.