See below for descriptions of some unique and notable features of Vermont's election law.
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.