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Stories about Vermont

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%).

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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.

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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.



Vermont Town Meeting day on Tuesday; Montpelier voters to elect town officials and vote on 15 ballot questions

Most towns in Vermont will hold town meetings on Tuesday, March 1. These meetings are held every year on the first Tuesday of March. Citizens of the towns elect officials, but they also directly decide on the town’s annual budget, specific appropriations, and other policy issues through ballot questions called articles.

Towns in Vermont use two methods for electing officials and deciding ballot questions: (a) floor voting or (b) Australian ballots, which are ballots cast at a polling place like during in-person, election-day voting for other elections. Towns can also use a combination of the two methods. Floor voting takes place when town citizens congregate in one location and hold debates and vote on motions.

Floor voting can take place through (a) voice votes; (b) hand counts, usually used when the moderator cannot tell the results of a voice vote; or (c) paper ballots passed out, filled in, and collected at the meeting. State law requires paper ballots to be used to elect officials when they are elected through floor voting.

Vermont law makes town meeting day a holiday for employees of the state. It also allows all employees in the state to take unpaid time off for town meeting day, with an exception for the essential operation of the state’s business. State law allows towns to hold town meetings for floor votes on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday before the first Tuesday in March. Polls, however, must be open for Australian Voting on Town Meeting Day if that method is used.

According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s voting methods and turnout statistics by town for 2021:

  • about 65% of listed towns used Australian ballot voting to elect town officers, and 35% used floor voting;
  • about 28% used Australian ballot voting for approving a budget, and 72% used floor voting;
  • about 37% used Australian ballot voting for ballot questions; and
  • about 56% moved to Australian ballot voting in 2021.

To get a clearer idea of town meetings, which are unique to New England local government, we’ll look closer at the officers and articles that voters in Montpelier, Vermont, will decide at their 2022 town meeting.

Montpelier voters will use Australian ballot for all officials and ballot questions. They will choose

  • the mayor;
  • District 1, 2, and 3 city council members;
  • a parks commission member;
  • two cemetery commission members;
  • Montpelier Roxbury School District board members, school treasurer, and school clerk; and
  • a Central Vermont Public Safety Authority Board member.

They will also vote on 15 local ballot questions: 10 town questions; four school district questions; and one question for the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority, which includes the towns of Montpelier and Barre. Three questions were put on the ballot through signature petitions. Binding, financial expenditure measures can be added to the Montpelier ballot through a petition signed by 10% of registered voters.

Citizens will vote either in favor of or against specific proposals deciding:

  • mayor and city council member compensation;
  • a $10.66 million budget for debts, expenses, and taxes in the 2022-2023 fiscal year;
  • two measures proposing town appropriations for specific purposes;
  • four bond issue measures;
  • a property tax within the town’s designated downtown area;
  • Montpelier Roxbury School District board member compensation;
  • a $26.94 million budget for the Montpelier Roxbury School District;
  • an additional appropriation for the Capital Reserve Fund of the Montpelier Roxbury School District and a measure allowing the district board to spend audited fund balances for operations; and
  • an appropriation for the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority District of $30,000—with $15,900 from Barre City and $14,100 from Montpelier.

Ballotpedia is covering local measures in 2022 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 and all local ballot measures in California. Ballotpedia’s 2022 local ballot measure coverage in Vermont includes Montpelier.

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Vermont voters to decide whether to add a right to personal reproductive autonomy to the state constitution in November

On Feb. 8, the Vermont House of Representatives took the final vote to send Proposal 5 to the November ballot. Proposal 5 would add language to the Vermont Constitution stating that “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course.” The amendment would prohibit the constitutional right from being denied or infringed unless there is a compelling state interest, which would need to be achieved using the least restrictive means.

The amendment has received support from the University of Vermont Medical Center, ACLU of Vermont, and League of Women Voters of Vermont. Rep. Ann Pugh (D-Chittenden) said, “The lack of a definitive enumeration of reproductive liberty in Vermont’s Constitution, the threats to Roe v. Wade being weakened or overturned by a very conservative US Supreme Court, and the cloud of multi-state efforts to erode reproductive autonomy all build a strong case for Proposition 5.”

Rep. Anne Donahue (R-Washington), who voted against the amendment, said she was worried about how the term, “reproductive autonomy,” could evolve. She said, “It’s a term far more open to interpretation and, in fact, could mean a great many things that we don’t currently envision.”

In Vermont, a constitutional amendment requires a vote in each chamber of the Vermont General Assembly in two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, there are different vote requirements depending on the session and chamber. During the first legislative session, a constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in the state Senate and a simple majority (50%+1) vote in the state House. During the second legislative session, a constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority vote in each legislative chamber.

The amendment was introduced during the 2019-2020 legislative session. The lead sponsors were State Sens. Timothy Ashe (D-Chittenden), Becca Balint (D-Windham), Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden), and Richard Sears (D-Bennington).

On April 4, 2019, the state Senate approved Proposal 5 in a vote of 28-2. To meet the two-thirds vote requirement, at least 21 votes were needed to pass the amendment. On May 7, 2019, the state House approved Proposal 5 in a vote of 106-38, with four members absent and one member abstaining. To meet the simple majority requirement, at least 73 votes were needed.

The amendment was taken up again during the 2021-2022 legislative session. On April 9, 2021, the state Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 26-4. A simple majority of 15 was required to pass the amendment in the senate the second time. On February 8, 2022, the state House approved the amendment by a vote of 107-41.

The amendment is one of three amendments related to abortion that has qualified for a statewide 2022 ballot. In August, Kansas voters will decide a constitutional amendment that would say that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion. In November, Kentucky voters will also decide a constitutional amendment to adopt similar language.

In Michigan, a citizen initiative targeting the 2022 ballot has been proposed that would create a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom. Nicole Wells Stallworth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said, “We have reached a critical moment in history for abortion access in Michigan with the Supreme Court poised to overturn nearly 50 years of precedent and restrict abortion access for 2.2 million Michiganders. We are exploring a ballot measure that would preserve every individual’s constitutional right to make the very personal decision about reproductive healthcare.”

Ballotpedia has identified six ballot measures to amend state constitutions to declare that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion. In Tennessee (2014), Alabama (2018), West Virginia (2018), and Louisiana (2020), these constitutional amendments were passed. In Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012), these constitutional amendments were defeated.

In November, Vermont voters will also decide Proposal 2, which would prohibit slavery and indentured servitude without exception in the state constitution. The 2022 amendments are the first to appear on Vermont ballots since 2010. Between 1995 and 2022, Vermont voters approved the only other two amendments that appeared on statewide ballots.

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Vermont voters to decide constitutional amendment for the first time in 12 years that would prohibit slavery and indentured servitude

The Vermont House of Representatives took the final vote on Feb. 4 to send Proposal 2 to voters in November. The constitutional amendment would repeal 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 would add “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.”

In Vermont, a constitutional amendment requires a vote in each chamber of the Vermont General Assembly in two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, there are different vote requirements depending on the session and chamber. During the first legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in the state Senate and a simple majority (50%+1) vote in the state House. During the second legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority vote in each legislative chamber.

State Sens. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden), Timothy Ashe (D-Chittenden), and Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) were the lead sponsors of Proposal 2 in the Vermont General Assembly in 2019.

The state Senate approved Proposal 2 on April 24, 2019. The vote was 28-1. At least 21 votes were needed to pass the constitutional amendment. The state House approved Proposal 2 on Jan. 21, 2020. The vote was 145-0. At least 73 votes were needed.

Proposal 2 was introduced during the 2021-2022 legislative session on March 31, 2021. It was approved by the state Senate by a vote of 29-1 on April 9, 2021. Only 15 votes were needed for the second vote in the senate. It was approved by the state House by a vote of 139-3 on Feb. 4, 2022. At least 71 votes were needed. The majority requirement was slightly lower the second time because Vermont determines their vote requirement by the number of members voting and not the total number of representatives.

In support of the amendment, State Rep. Hal Colston (D) said, “My truth as a descendent of slave advocates is that this current language gives the appearance that there may be an exception for the existence of slavery and indentured servitude. Language is powerful and the truth shall set us free.”

The amendment will be the first measure to be decided by Vermont voters in 12 years. The last constitutional amendment was referred to ballots in 2010 where it was approved. Vermont voters have only decided on one other amendment between 1995 and 2021. It was also approved.

Currently, 10 states have constitutions that included provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude but with an exception for criminal punishments. These constitutional provisions were added to state constitutions, in their original forms, from the 1850s to the 1890s. Nine states have constitutions that included provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment. Vermont is the only state to have a constitutional provision permitting involuntary servitude to pay a debt, damage, fine, or cost.

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Elections to be held March 1 in Montpelier, Vt.

Nonpartisan elections for the mayor and four of the six city council seats in Montpelier, Vt. are scheduled for March 1. The candidate filing deadline passed on Jan. 24.

Anne Watson and Stephen Whitaker are competing in the mayoral race. Dona Bate is running unopposed in District 1, and Conor Casey is running unopposed in District 2. Alice Goltz and Cary Brown are competing for one of the District 3 seats. Another District 3 seat is up for special election on the same date. Jennifer Morton and Gene Leon are competing in the special election.

The special election was called after Dan Richardson resigned on Sept. 1 to become the city attorney for Burlington. Richardson served from March 2021 to Sept. 2021. 

Montpelier is the capital of Vermont. The city’s population was 8,074 as of 2020.

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Vermont ends statewide face-covering requirement

One state ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 12-17.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the state, including capacity restrictions and mask requirements for unvaccinated individuals on June 14. Masks are still required in health care settings, in long-term care facilities, on public transportation, and at transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports). 

The California Department of Health also exempted fully vaccinated individuals from the statewide mask mandate starting June 15. Fully vaccinated residents still have to wear masks on public transit and in transportation hubs, in indoor childcare and K-12 school settings, in healthcare settings, and in congregate settings (including prisons and homeless shelters). The statewide mask requirement still exists for unvaccinated people in all indoor public settings and businesses. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 12 states had statewide mask orders, including 11 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and one of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 12 states, 11 exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 27 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 15 have Republican governors and 12 have Democratic governors. Twenty-four states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



In four states, no state or federal officials have tested positive for COVID-19

Between the start of the coronavirus pandemic and March 18, 2021, no elected or appointed state or federal officials announced positive COVID-19 test results in four states—Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont. In the 46 other states, Ballotpedia has identified at least one COVID-19 positive state or federal official within our coverage scope. State and federal officials include members of Congress, state legislators, and state executive officeholders.

The first COVID-19 positive state officials identified by Ballotpedia were New York state Reps. Helene Weinstein (D) and Charles Barron (D), who announced positive test results on March 14, 2020. The first members of Congress to test positive were Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.), who made their announcements March 18.

Since then, Ballotpedia has identified 215 candidates and officials diagnosed with COVID-19 at the state level, and 69 candidates and officials with COVID-19 at the federal level.

The state with the highest number of publicly identified COVID-19 state and federal officials is Pennsylvania, where two U.S. House members, the governor, and 17 members of the state legislature have tested positive since March 2020.

To read more about federal, state, and local officials and candidates affected by COVID-19, click the link below.



Burlington, Vermont, voters approve a measure March 2 to use ranked-choice voting for city council elections

Voters in Burlington, Vermont, approved Question 4 on March 2, 64% to 36%. Question 4 will implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for city council elections beginning in March 2022. As a charter amendment, the measure must now be approved by the Vermont General Assembly and signed by the governor to be enacted.

The vote was the first time the city voters considered RCV after repealing it in 2010. In 2005, Burlington voters amended the city’s charter to implement RCV—referred to as instant runoff voting—for mayoral elections. The 2005 measure was approved, 64% to 36%. Ranked-choice voting was used in the 2006 and 2009 mayoral elections.

On March 2, 2010, voters repealed ranked-choice voting by a vote of 52% to 48%. The measure to repeal ranked-choice voting was placed on the ballot through a ballot initiative petition drive after the city’s 2009 mayoral election.

The Burlington City Council attempted to place a ranked-choice voting measure on the November 2020 ballot, but it was vetoed by Mayor Miro Weinberger (D) after it passed the city council, 6 to 5. It would have implemented RCV for city council, mayoral, and school commissioner elections. The council amended the measure to only include city council elections and reconsidered it for the March 2021 ballot. The city council approved it on September 22, 2020. Mayor Weinberger signed the measure on October 3, 2020. 

The Yes on 4: Better Ballot Burlington campaign was co-chaired by former Governor Howard Dean (D) and City Councilmember Zoraya Hightower (Vermont Progressive Party). Hightower said, “I believe [RCV] helps elect leaders that are more representative of our city and cities across the country.”

Mayor Weinberger opposed the amended measure, saying, “[Prior use of ranked-choice voting] led to campaigns being very hesitant to define differences and distinctions between themselves on substance because of concerns of alienating second and third votes from other candidates. I was a campaign chair of a mayoral election during that period. I just don’t think it worked well.”

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

As of 2021, one state (Maine) had implemented RCV at the state level, one state (Alaska) had adopted but not implemented RCV, eight states contained jurisdictions that had implemented RCV at some level, and another five states contained jurisdictions—including New York City—that had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections.