2. How Vermont’s voting system has changed

Vermont has changed both its voting system and majority requirements many times through its history. The acceptance of initial plurality winners is actually a rather recent change in Vermont election law. The majority requirement was finally abandoned altogether for all offices other than constitutional ones only in 1940. For most of Vermont’s history, all single-seat races required a majority to elect. In cases without an initial majority winner for a legislative seat, if there was no majority a new vote was held, repeatedly, until a majority was achieved. For Congress, this meant elections a month or so apart. For state representatives, it meant re-voting on into the night or the next day at a town meeting. Eventually, plurality victories were recognized if there was no majority winner after a few re-votes. This shift to the plurality rule came in the midst of a period of one-party predominance in which no statewide election was won by any candidate other than a Republican for over a century.

Changes in voting procedure have also been notable, although most of the changes occurred prior to this century. These changes include the allowance of printed ballots rather than written ballots, the usage of absentee ballots, and the introduction of the Australian ballot or government-printed ballot. The only major change in this century was the adoption of state sponsored party primaries in 1915.

As state archivist Gregory Sanford noted in his testimony to the Commission, Vermont has continually changed its voting system in response to political stimuli.