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Election Law


Vermont State Law

17 V.S.A. §§1811-2986

The Vermont election laws are contained in Title 17, sections 1811-2986, of the Vermont Statutes. View the Vermont election laws. The Elections Division provides advice and guidance on compliance with the election laws to town and city clerks, other election officials, candidates, parties, and the general public.

Please note that there may be specific provisions of Titles 16, 20, and 24 that also relate to Vermont’s elections, which you should be sure to review as necessary.

All of Vermont’s cities, and many of the larger towns, also have a municipal governance charter that may have provisions that differ from and supersede the laws included in Title 17. If your municipality has a governance charter it should be consulted alongside these general election laws. Wherever possible the two sets of laws should be read in conjunction with one and the other; however, where the laws may conflict, the provisions of the municipal charter will generally govern. 

All municipal governance charters are contained in the Appendix to Title 24 of the Vermont Statutes.

The Elections Division produces an easy-to-read, unannotated version of the election laws, which we are pleased to provide in PDF format.

Our election laws are constantly being revised by the Vermont Legislature. The unannotated printed version of our election law are both up to date through the 2017 legislative session. As the Legislature makes further changes to our laws, you will see these updates reflected in both places.

Majority Election in Vermont

Section 47, Chapter II of the Vermont Constitution requires candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and treasurer to receive a majority of the votes in order to be elected. In the event no candidate receives a majority, “...the Senate and House of Representatives shall by joint ballot, elect to fill the office, not filled by the voters as aforesaid, one of the three candidates for such office (if there be so many) for whom the greatest number of votes shall have been returned.”

Currently the only other popularly elected officials governed by majority election are town officers in municipalities that have not adopted the Australian ballot or other alternative balloting practices. See 17 V.S.A. §2660.

The majority requirement has been applied to other races (secretary of state, auditor of accounts, attorney general, Vermont House, U.S. Congress) through our history. Over time the majority requirement has been replaced with election by plurality. For attempts to change the constitutional requirement for majority election see amending the constitution.

Statewide Referendum Only for Constitutional Amendments and Local Petitions

Vermont law does not allow for referenda by the voters to enact legislation. Under Sections 2 and 6, Chapter II of the Vermont Constitution only the General Assembly has the authority to enact legislation. To transfer this authority to a direct vote of the people would therefore be unconstitutional.

The only referendum mechanism provided under the Constitution is in Section 72, Chapter II, which provides for submitting proposed constitutional amendments to a vote of the people, adoption requiring a majority vote (language adopted in 1870).

Over time, the General Assembly has debated whether, and how, to seek popular expression on closely divided issues. Using a couple different mechanisms, 29 questions have been put to a popular vote in 17 referenda since the 1700s.

At the local level, voters have the power to petition their municipal government to put certain articles to a vote of the voters, see 17 V.S.A. § 2642. View Local Petitions for more information on the local petition process.

Administrative Complaint Procedure

View or download the administrative complaint procedure.

 

Federal Law

For detailed information on federal election law, please visit the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and/or the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) websites.

Help America Vote Act of 2002

In the wake of the 2000 presidential election, the United States Congress passed election reform legislation known as the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). This law required broad changes to the way Vermont conducts its elections. Most notably HAVA mandated the creation of a statewide voter registration checklist, the acceptance of provisional ballots, and the purchase of a voting system for every polling place to allow individuals with disabilities to vote privately and independently. It also required poll worker and voter education programs. Vermont has received federal funds to assist the state and municipalities in meeting the new federal mandates. View or download the HAVA Summary.

Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act

Enacted in 1986, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) protects the right of service members to vote in federal elections regardless of where they are stationed. This law requires that states and territories allow members of the U.S. Uniformed Services and Merchant Marines, and their family members; and U.S. citizens residing outside the United States to register and vote absentee in elections for federal offices.

Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act

UOCAVA was expanded significantly in 2009, when the U.S. Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act to provide greater protections for service members, their families, and other overseas citizens. Among other provisions, the MOVE Act requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters no later than 45 days before a federal election, when the request has been received by that date, except where the state has been granted an undue hardship waiver approved by the Department of Defense for that election.

For more detailed information on both UOCAVA and the MOVE Act amendments, refer to the Department of Justice.

 

Resources


Contact Information

Elections Division

William Senning, Director

128 State Street

Montpelier, VT 05633-1101

802-828-2363

will.senning@vermont.gov

Admin./General Inquiries

Lori Bjornlund

802-828-2464

lori.bjornlund@vermont.gov

Camp. Finance/Legal/General Inquiries

JP Isabelle

802-828-2304

jp.isabelle@vermont.gov

Lobbying

Elizabeth "Liz" Harrington

802-828-0771

liz.harrington@vermont.gov

Town Clerks/Voter Registration

Lelonie Oatway

802-828-1931

lelonie.oatway@vermont.gov

Mailing Address

Office of the Secretary of State

Elections Division

128 State Street

Montpelier, VT 05633-1101


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