Stories about Vermont

Voters in Burlington, Vermont, and Redondo Beach, California, approve ranked-choice voting measures

Voters in Burlington, Vermont, and Redondo Beach, California approved ranked-choice voting measures in local elections on March 7.

Burlington Question 6 was approved with 64.4% of the vote. The measure amended the city’s charter to adopt ranked-choice voting for elections for the mayor, school commissioners, and ward election officers. Before Question 6, the candidate receiving a plurality of votes wins the office, unless no candidate receives at least 40% of the votes, whereby the top two candidates would proceed to a runoff election. The measure was put on the ballot by the Burlington City Council. In March 2021, Burlington voters approved a measure to adopt ranked-choice voting for city council elections.

Redondo Beach Measure CA5 was approved with 77.5% of the vote. The measure amended the city charter to implement ranked-choice voting for all city elected offices, thereby eliminating runoff elections. The amendment requires the city council to adopt an implementing ordinance to establish the electoral system. Seven other cities in California have adopted ranked-choice voting, including Oakland, San Francisco, San Leandro, Berkeley, Albany, Eureka, and Palm Desert.

Currently, two states (Alaska and Maine) had implemented ranked-choice voting in federal and/or state-level elections. One state (Hawaii) had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in certain elections. Another ten states contained jurisdictions that had implemented RCV at the local level. Another five states contained jurisdictions that had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections.

In 2022, nine local ballot measures were related to adopting ranked-choice voting. Measures were passed in seven jurisdictions and were rejected in two.

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Voters in Burlington, Vermont, to decide on ballot measures related to policing, ranked-choice voting, noncitizen voting, and more

On March 7, 2023, voters in Burlington, Vermont, will decide on at least seven ballot measures—five of which were placed on the ballot by the Burlington City Council, and two which were placed on the ballot by citizen initiative.

The council-referred measures are as follows:

  • A charter amendment that would allow non-citizens who are legal residents to vote in municipal and school board elections
  • A charter amendment that would require voters to be residents of a ward or city district if casting a ballot for certain local officers or local public questions, and to provide that the City Council determines the number and location of polling places in each ward
  • A charter amendment that would redistrict city election boundaries
  • A charter amendment that would provide that ranked-choice voting be established for elections for mayor, school commissioners, and ward election officers
  • A measure that would implement a carbon pollution impact fee starting for “new construction buildings that install fossil fuel thermal energy systems,” and for existing commercial and industrial buildings that have installed fossil “fuel thermal energy space conditioning or domestic water heating systems”

The citizen-initiated charter amendments are as follows:

  • A charter amendment that would establish an independent board to investigate, hear complaints, and impose discipline regarding a police officer’s actions or inactions
  • A charter amendment that would provide citizens the ability to initiate ballot questions and repeal ordinances by majority vote and place the issue directly on the ballot, rather than requiring city council and mayoral approval to be placed on the ballot.

Independent oversight board regarding police

Regarding the police oversight board initiative, City Councilor Joe Magee said, “We need to be holding the police department to a higher standard of accountability and demanding more transparency from them.” James Lyall, the executive director of the ACLU of Vermont, said, “We believe that it’s really important to have independent involvement in police oversight, that it’s not enough to essentially leave it to police to police themselves… We’ve seen that; that can create real problems.”

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger (D), who opposes the initiative, said, “I think, arguably, if you were going to create some kind of citizen oversight board that’s the most important background for someone to have. But this sort of turns it on its head and says that that is disqualifying. And that’s offensive. It’s offensive to me. It’s offensive to someone who believes that law enforcement is an important profession that we need to respect. It’s certainly offensive to the people who serve and put their lives on the line every day for this community. It also completely removes the chief from any role in discipline which I think really fundamentally changes the chief’s role and makes it very hard for a chief to be successful.”

Noncitizen voting

A noncitizen voting measure was previously rejected by voters in 2015. Last year, the city council voted to refer the measure to the March ballot. City Councilor Gene Bergman (Vermont Progressive Party) said, “There are all these decisions that are made on a local level, in fact, this is where we live, we live here, we act here and it’s where most of the important things happen, and I believe people should have a stake in it.”

Ranked choice voting for mayor, school commissioners, and ward election officers

The charter amendment would implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for mayoral, school commissioner, and ward election officer elections. Currently, in Burlington, RCV is used for city council elections. In March 2021, voters passed Question 4 to use RCV for city council elections. RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate gets a majority, the candidate with the lowest amount of votes is eliminated, and votes for that candidate would instead be assigned to the second choice of those voters. The process would continue until one candidate receives the majority of votes.

Mayor Weinberger opposes the measure, saying, “I don’t think there’s a need to in the Burlington mayoral general election where we have a provision for a runoff if no one achieves a strong plurality, so I think it’s a mistake I think it’s problematic for a mayoral, general elections, but voters are going to get to weigh in and decide for themselves.” City Councilor Joan Shannon (D) supports the measure, saying that the process is better for voters. Shannon said, “What we really want to look for is a voting system that serves democracy, that engages the public and that produces a result that is reflective of the voters’ will.”

The measures will be decided by Burlington voters on March 7, 2023.

Three states to have veto-proof legislative majority and governor of the opposing party


Two of four states heading into the 2022 elections that had a veto-proof legislative majority and governor of the opposing party—Kentucky and Kansas—maintained that status after the elections. Vermont became a state with a veto-proof legislative majority and opposing-party governor as a result of the 2022 elections.

Maryland and Massachusetts will no longer have a veto-proof legislative majority and governor of the opposing party since the party that held a veto-proof majority also gained control of the governor’s office in the 2022 elections.

State governors may veto bills advanced by the state legislature. With sufficient support—between one-half and two-thirds of sitting legislators, depending on the state—state legislatures may overturn a gubernatorial veto. When one party controls enough seats to overturn a veto without support from the other party, a legislature can hold a veto-proof majority.

Heading into the 2022 elections, four states had a governor of one party and a veto-proof state legislative majority of the opposing party: Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Three states—North Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin—could have switched to having a veto-proof majority and an opposing party governor due to the 2022 elections.

  1. In Kentucky, Republicans maintained their veto-proof majority in both chambers of the state legislature. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) is not up for re-election until 2023.
  2. In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly (D) won re-election. Republicans maintained their veto-proof majority in the state Senate since that chamber did not hold regular elections. Republicans also won at least two-thirds of the seats in the state House of Representatives.
  3. In Maryland, Democrats won the governorship while maintaining their veto-proof state legislative majority and became a Democratic trifecta. Wes Moore (D) won the Maryland gubernatorial election. Incumbent Larry Hogan (R) was term-limited.
  4. In Massachusetts, Democrats won the governorship while maintaining their veto-proof state legislative majority and became a Democratic trifecta. Maura Healey (D) won the Massachusetts gubernatorial election. Incumbent Charlie Baker (R) did not run for re-election.
  5. In Vermont, Democrats gained a veto-proof majority in the state legislature and Phil Scott (R) was re-elected governor.

Two states could have gained a veto-proof legislative majority with an opposing party governor in 2022.

  1. In North Carolina, Republicans gained a three-fifths majority in the state Senate. The final margin of the Republican majority in the North Carolina House of Representatives has not yet been determined. North Carolina holds gubernatorial elections in presidential election years, so Gov. Roy Cooper (D) was not up for re-election.
  2. In Wisconsin, Republicans gained a two-thirds majority in the state Senate but fell at least two seats short of a two-thirds majority in the Wisconsin State Assembly. Incumbent Gov. Tony Evers (D) won re-election.

Four states with a governor of one party and a veto-proof state legislature of the opposing party—Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, and Massachusetts—maintained that status after the 2020 elections. None of those four states held gubernatorial elections that year. Five states could have switched to having a veto-proof state legislature and an opposing party governor because of the 2020 elections but none of them achieved the sufficient legislative majorities to achieve that status.

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Measures to repeal constitutional language on slavery and indentured servitude as criminal punishments are on the ballot in five states this November

On November 8, 2022, voters in five states—Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont—will decide on amending their state constitutions to repeal language regarding the use of slavery or indentured servitude as punishment for a crime, or, in the case of Vermont, for the payments of debts, damages, fines, costs.

The ballot questions are below:

  1. Alabama Recompiled Constitution Ratification Question: Ratifies an updated and recompiled state constitution, which was adopted by the legislature following voter approval of Amendment 4 in 2020. The proposed constitution repeals language that provides for involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.
  2. Louisiana Amendment 7: Removes language in the state constitution that provides for slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime and instead says that slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited, except that this cannot be applied to otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.
  3. Oregon Measure 112: Repeals language providing for slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishments.
  4. Tennessee Amendment 3: Repeals language providing for slavery or involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.
  5. Vermont Proposal 2: Repeals language stating that persons could be held as servants, slaves, or apprentices with the person’s consent or “for the payments of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like” and adds language saying that “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.”

The Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—which was ratified on December 6, 1865—prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, except as a punishment for those convicted of crimes. The text of the Thirteenth Amendment reads:

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

As of 2022, 10 state constitutions included provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude but with an exception for criminal punishments, while nine states had constitutions that included provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment.

The states with constitutions that include provisions regarding slavery and involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment are Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The states with constitutions that include provisions regarding involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as criminal punishment, are Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Vermont is the only state that has a constitutional provision regarding involuntary servitude to pay a debt, damage, fine, or cost.

Nebraska, Utah, and Colorado put measures on the ballot to remove language from their state constitutions regarding the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. These amendments were approved in Nebraska and Utah in 2020, and in Colorado in 2018.

Six abortion-related measures are on the ballot in 2022—the most on record for a single year

In 2022, there are six ballot measures addressing abortion—the most on record. Measures have been certified for the ballot in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont. Votes on these ballot measures follow Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which held that the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.

Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont will be the first to decide on ballot measures to establish state constitutional rights to abortion. These measures are also the first abortion-related ballot measures since 1992 to have the support of organizations that describe themselves as pro-choice/pro-reproductive rights.

In August, voters in Kansas rejected a measure to provide that the state constitution cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion. Turnout on the amendment was 49%, exceeding the number of votes cast in the state’s U.S. Senate and gubernatorial primaries on August 2. On November 8, voters in Kentucky will decide on a similar amendment. These types of amendments are designed to address previous and future state court rulings on abortion that have prevented or could prevent legislatures from passing certain abortion laws. 

In November, voters will decide on five abortion-related ballot measures:

  • California Proposition 1: Amends the California Constitution to provide that the state cannot “deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions,” including decisions to have an abortion or to choose or refuse contraceptives
  • Kentucky Constitutional Amendment 2: Amends the Kentucky Constitution to state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding of abortions
  • Michigan Proposal 3: Amends the Michigan Constitution to provide a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom, defined to include abortion, contraception, and other matters related to pregnancy
  • Montana LR-131: Provides, in state law, that infants born alive at any stage of development are legal persons and requires medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method
  • Vermont Amendment: Amends the Vermont Constitution to provide a state constitutional right to personal reproductive autonomy

From 1970 to August 2022, there have been 48 abortion-related ballot measures, and 41 (85%) of these had the support of organizations that described themselves as pro-life. Voters approved 11 (27%) and rejected 30 (73%) of these 41 ballot measures. The other seven abortion-related ballot measures had the support of organizations that described themselves as pro-choice or pro-reproductive rights. Voters approved four (57%) and rejected three (43%).

Additional reading:

Newcomers will represent at least 32% of Vermont’s state legislative seats next year

Fifty-seven state legislative seats up for election in Vermont this year are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. This represents 32% of the state’s legislature, a marked increase compared to recent election cycles.

Since no incumbents are present, newcomers are guaranteed to win all open seats.

Vermont restructured its House and Senate during the state’s redistricting process. Previously, the state had 117 state legislative districts containing 180 seats. After redistricting, there are 125 districts, still containing 180 seats.

While the number of open seats increased this year, other competitiveness metrics—like the number of contested primaries—decreased compared to the 2020 election cycle.

Across all districts, there are 24 contested primaries, representing 10% of all possible primaries.

A contested primary is one where there are more candidates running than nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

There are 17 Democratic primaries, a 23% decrease from 2020. Republicans are holding seven contested primaries, the same number as in 2020.

Overall, 276 major party candidates filed to run for the state’s 150 House and 30 Senate seats this year: 174 Democrats and 102 Republicans.

Vermont has had a divided government since Republicans won the governorship in 2016. Democrats hold a 91-46 majority in the House, with 12 other seats held by minor party or independent officeholders and one vacancy. The party holds a 21-7 majority in the Senate, with two seats held by minor party officeholders.

Vermont’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 9, the 12th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:

Vermont House of Representatives elections, 2022

Vermont State Senate elections, 2022

Vermont’s only U.S. House seat is open for the first time since 2006

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in Vermont this year was May 26, 2022. Seven candidates filed to run for Vermont’s At-Large U.S. House district, a decade-high. That’s one more than the six candidates who ran in 2020 and two more than the five who ran in 2018. 

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  1. Because it has only one U.S. House seat, Vermont did not need to redistrict after the 2020 census.
  2. Vermont’s only U.S. House seat is open for the first time since 2006, when incumbent Rep. Peter Welch (D) was elected. Welch is retiring to run for the U.S. Senate. 
  3. Four Democrats and three Republicans are running to replace Welch, meaning both primaries are contested. Both primaries were contested in 2020 and 2018 as well. 

Vermont and three other states — Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — are holding primary elections on August 9, 2022. Winners in Vermont primary elections are determined via plurality vote, meaning that the candidate with the highest number of votes wins even if he or she did not win an outright majority of votes cast. In the event of a tie, a runoff election is held.

Additional reading:

List of U.S. Congress incumbents who are not running for re-election in 2022

Vermont enacts new state legislative districts

Vermont enacted new state legislative districts on April 6 when Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed H722, the redistricting proposal approved by both legislative chambers, into law. The maps will take effect for Vermont’s 2022 state legislative elections.

On Oct. 15, 2021, the Vermont Legislative Apportionment Board voted 4-3 to approve a single-member district House map proposal. The board sent this proposal and another with a mix of single- and multi-member districts to the legislature on Nov. 30. After rejecting the single-member district proposal, the Vermont House of Representatives voted 129-13 to advance the multi-member district proposal on March 16. On March 25, the Vermont State Senate unanimously approved the new districts.

State Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D) said the redistricting process was “really one of a tremendous time crunch,” but “everybody supported the bill because they supported the process and the fairness and inclusion of the process.” State Sen. Jeanette White (D) said, “Some people are happy and some people are not happy. I think we did the right thing.”

Gov. Scott did not address the bill upon signing it, but spokesman Jason Maulucci said, “We see the consequences of the our [sic] demographic challenges in numerous ways, and the further redistribution of representation from rural areas to more economically well-off parts of the state are another example.” State Republican Party Chairman Paul Dame (R) said, “The mix of single- and double-member districts is problematic because, fundamentally, some Vermonters get twice as many votes as other Vermonters.”

As of April 7, 43 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers and one state has adopted maps for one legislative chamber. Courts in three states have overturned previously enacted maps, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin’s enacted maps, and two states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census. As of April 7, 2012, 44 states had enacted legislative redistricting plans after the 2010 census.

Nationwide, states have completed legislative redistricting for 1,758 of 1,972 state Senate seats (89.1%) and 4,776 of 5,411 state House seats (88.3%).

Additional reading:

Sixteen Thirty Fund, ACLU, and Planned Parenthood contribute to the campaign behind Vermont Proposal 5, the Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment

In its March 15 campaign finance filings, Vermont for Reproductive Liberty, the campaign behind Proposal 5, reported receiving $183,207 in contributions. Proposal 5 would amend the Vermont Constitution to add language protecting the right to personal reproductive autonomy and prohibiting government infringement unless justified by a compelling state interest. Currently, the right to abortion is protected in Vermont statute. 

The top donors to the campaign included Planned Parenthood Action Fund ($50,141.70), Sixteen Thirty Fund ($27,800.00), Donna and Jake Carpenter ($25,000), Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund ($20,841.51), and the ACLU ($11,002.00).

Jessica Arons, senior advocacy and policy counsel for reproductive freedom for the ACLU National, said, “The right to abortion in this country is on the line as it’s never been since Roe was first decided. This is the time to show up for the right to reproductive freedom and send the message that we will do whatever we can to ensure that people can get the care they need no matter what.”

The campaign opposing the amendment, Vermont Right to Life, reported receiving $778.65 in contributions. Joanna Ellis-Monaghan contributed the most with $320.

Vermonters for Good Government also opposes Proposal 5. It argues that if the amendment passes, “future generations of voters will be unable to ever start an amendment removal process, it will be out of their control, as amendments must originate in the legislature. As we look around the country, we see changing laws, opinions, and attitudes about this critically important topic.”

In December, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenging court precedent on abortion. The court will announce its decision this summer.

In 2022, there will be at least four ballot measures, including Vermont Proposal 5, addressing abortion—the most since 1986. In Kansas and Kentucky, the ballot measures would declare there is no state constitutional right to abortions. In Montana, a legislative referral would state that “an infant born alive is a legal person” and that present healthcare providers shall provide “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the [infant’s] life and health.”

In addition to the four certified ballot measures related to abortion, Ballotpedia is tracking five proposed ballot measures—two citizen-initiatives and three legislative referrals—that voters could decide in Colorado, Michigan, Maryland, and Oklahoma.

Additional reading:

Voters approve all 15 ballot measures at the town meeting election in Montpelier, Vermont

Ballotpedia covered 15 local ballot measure in Montpelier, Vermont, on March 1, 2022. Voters approved all 15 measures at the city’s town meeting election.

The voter-approved ballot measures were designed to do the following:

*authorize $30,000 to fund the 2022-2023 operating budget of the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority (CVPSA) and the CVPSA’s Telecommunications Improvement and Acquisition Plan;

*authorize spending $10,656,060 for the payment of debts, expenses, and taxes in the 2022-2023 fiscal year;

*authorize spending $4,080 to compensate the mayor in 2022-2023;

*authorize spending $12,240 for city council member compensation to pay each member $2,040 for the 2022-2023 fiscal year;

*authorize Montpelier to issue up to $7.2 million in bonds to fund the reconstruction of East State Street;

*authorize Montpelier to issue $1.815 million to fund the purchase of a pellet boiler at the Public Works Garage, street light replacements, and intersection improvements at Barre and Main Street, a retaining wall on Marvin Street, Confluence River Park, and other highway infrastructure projects, with repayment over a term of 20 years;

*authorize Montpelier to issue $2 million in bonds for the purchase of approximately 138 acres of land, formerly the Elks Club;

*authorize the city to issue $16.4 million in bonds for sewer treatment systems;

*authorize the city to levy an additional property tax of $51.5 per $100,000 in assessed property value on non-residential property in Montpelier’s Designated Downtown to fund downtown streetscaping and marketing;

*authorize spending $395,696 for the Kellogg-Hubbard Library for the 2022-2023 fiscal year;

*authorize spending $23,500 for the Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice;

*adopt an annual budget of $26,938,821 for the Montpelier Roxbury School District’s 2022-2023 fiscal year, amounting to an estimated $17,829.69 per equalized pupil;

*authorize spending $260,000 to supplement the Capital Reserve Fund in the 2022-2023 fiscal year;

*authorize spending $9,700 for the compensation of the school board of directors for the 2022-2023 fiscal year; and

*authorize the school board of directors to hold any audited fund balance as of June 30, 2022, to be spent on district operations under the control of the board.

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also providing information on all local measures in California, as well as statewide ballot measures in the 50 states. Ballotpedia’s 2022 local ballot measure coverage includes Vermont’s state capital, Montpelier.