In early March, the Vermont House of Representatives approved a series of changes to state election laws. As this year’s legislative session nears a conclusion, the state Senate has added some new measures of its own to that same bill that its own Committee on Government Operations recommended.
House Bill 429 includes a so-called ‘sore loser law’. It would prevent most candidates who lose a county, statewide or federal primary election from being nominated by a different party for the general election.
“And that law is something that 46 other states have — 46,” State Sen. Ruth Hardy (D – East Middlebury) said. “We are one of only four states that does not have this provision.”
The other three such states are New York, Connecticut and Iowa.
One senator noted that the bill passed through the House with Democratic support alone, adding that many of the House members who voted for it only did so after Democratic leadership in their chamber pressured them.
State Sen. Irene Wrenner (D – Essex) asked, “In order to help voters feel that the process here is being changed for their sake and to widen choice, wouldn’t it be better to adjust Vermont laws with at least bipartisan support or the votes of independents?”
The full Senate narrowly approved Friday, by a 16-14 margin, a series of amendments to H.429. One of the amendments would try to save time counting write-in votes in most elections.
“This would say, unless you have registered as a write-in candidate ten days prior to the election, the second Friday prior to the election, the clerks don’t have to individually count,” Sen. Hardy said.
Now that the bill is amended, the upper chamber has to give it final approval before returning it to the House. These steps are unlikely to be completed this year because the legislative session was winding down Friday night with discussion of the state budget.
State Sen. Dick Sears (D – Bennington) asked if the amendments take unusual circumstances into account. He made a very clear reference to Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore in the process.
“I’ve seen cases where somebody is shackled and kicked in the groin by a candidate for sheriff,” Sen. Sears said. “That might happen within (the last ten days prior to) the election.”
House members have taken the first step toward possible impeachment proceedings against both Grismore and Franklin County State’s Attorney John Lavoie. They’ve voted to give House Speaker Jill Krowinski the authority to set up a seven-member committee to investigate whether the two should be impeached.
The committee will be able to meet after the session adjourns. It’d have the ability to hire investigators, and it would have subpoena power.