HOUSE AND SENATE PROGRESSIVE STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO H.97 AND AMENDMENT February 22, 2023 MONTPELIER, VERMONT - Progressives are in support of election reforms that eliminate barriers to the political process for voters and candidates. We should be broadening the range of people who can run and serve to expand the voices that are at the decision making table. We can better achieve this goal by implementing voting system reforms that expand viable choices such as Ranked Choice Voting and All-Resident Voting. We stand for a system that enables Vermonters of all perspectives and backgrounds, especially minoritized Vermonters. When 44% of Vermonters are underinsured, 8% of Vermonters face food insecurity, and more than 2,000 Vermonters remain houseless, we see no value in spending any additional time crafting election reforms that only reduce electoral transparency and voter choice.
The majority of this amendment to H.97 does not further these goals.
The House Government Operations & Military Affairs proposed amendment to H.97 intends to make various undemocratic changes to Vermont's election laws. Among these changes are regulations to establish unlimited contributions from candidates to political parties, and infringe upon a candidate’s ability to determine the order of party affiliations that they can list when running with multiple party affiliations.
We support public campaign financing, not a system that cycles more money into our political system. Allowing an unlimited flow of funds from political parties to candidates (and vice versa) favors well-financed political parties with deep national pockets and infrastructure. It also concentrates money in our political system which creates a dangerous imbalance of power between candidates. This would deliberately disadvantage less economically resourced, less known, and less politically networked candidates.
Fusion voting is a long-standing tradition. Vermonters are familiar with it and voters have not asked the state to eliminate it. This bill restricts candidates’ freedom of association and ability to accurately identify themselves for voters based on their values. We are concerned with this proposal to allow the state to dictate how candidates with differing party affiliations appear on the general election ballot — whether they be Progressive, Democrat, or Republican. This bill also discourages cooperation among parties and only encourages inter-party conflict. In the spirit of democracy and transparency, we oppose this proposal that is attempting to create a ‘solution’ in search of a problem.
Additionally, dictating the order of party affiliation on the ballot only serves the interest of the majority political parties with the largest resources. Parties with supermajorities include candidates with a diversity of political values. Voters deserve to understand the differences among candidates. Voters do not want party politics to trump democracy for the people. What the voters expect and deserve is to be able to elect officials who will spend their policy making time working toward solutions to their real everyday issues, not the best interest of a party holding the most power in the legislature.
Prohibiting access to the general ballot for candidates who lose in a primary is a direct prohibition of an access point to elections for people who identify as independents. Allowing independent candidates to reach a wide audience through the primary process is a validation of our collective democratic values. The “sore loser” provision restricts candidates from running as independents after losing a primary. Ultimately, people should be allowed to run without the backing of a major party. If the party electorate decides that any given candidate does align with their platform, no candidate should be prohibited from running in the general election. Major parties must not prevent anyone from running for office regardless of any candidate’s ability to obtain major party affiliation. This is a critical component of democracy.
This amendment fails to address a known election problem: creating more accessible elected positions for minoritized Vermonters. For decades, minoritized people have been excluded from running for office and discouraged from serving once elected due to racism, transphobia, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination. This exclusion has been deliberate within our election rules and laws. We should be working to increase access for minoritized people by expanding ballot access, increasing legislator compensation, and creating safer working climates within our legislative process. This proposal does not work to create a more equitable and inclusive Vermont.
We look forward to supporting election reform legislation that would improve the ability for more Vermonters to join the decision making process while ensuring political literacy, access to voting, and the creation of more democratic elections. We are obligated to serve the needs of our constituents, address the crises that face Vermonters every day, and reduce systemic inequities — not to further concentrate political power. This legislation does not serve the best interest of Vermonters.
The undersigned Progressives oppose forcing party affiliation order on ballots, unlimited party-to -candidate/candidate-to-party contribution transfers, and preventing general election ballot access for candidates who lose a primary.
Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, House Progressive Caucus Leader
Rep. Taylor Small, Assistant House Progressive Caucus Leader
Rep. Brian Cina
Rep. Troy Headrick
Rep. Kate Logan
Sen. Tanya Vyhovsky
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman