Election Law Changes (H.429) - Overview

This bill does a number of things to change election laws in Vermont, including wide sweeping voting method reforms (ranked-choice voting), new restrictions on independent and write-in candidates, changes to donation limits and required candidate information, the introduction of electronic absentee voting, and strengthened financial disclosure rules.


Summary (as currently considered by the Senate):

  • A candidate who loses a major party primary for any office would be prohibited from running as an independent candidate for the same office in the general election.

    This is a so-called "sore looser" law where political parties try to prevent primary election losers from running again in a general election under an independent or third-party banner.

  • Candidates for statewide office would have a donation limit of $20k per election cycle to political parties.

  • The bill would require the electronic posting of names and addresses of all town and county committee political members.

  • Independent candidates for office would now be required to file prior to major party primaries (currently they are required to file in time for ballot printing).
  • A candidate's gender, age, and race or ethnicity would be required on their petition filings. The Secretary of State may publish this information in aggregate form, but the data would be exempt from public records requests.

  • Write-in candidates would be required to submit a form to the Secretary of State ten days prior to an election to consent to their candidacy.

  • Write-in candidates in primary elections would now be required to garner 10% of votes cast, receive as many votes as the signature requirement for that seat, or receive more votes than a candidate whose name is listed on the ballot in order to be declared the winner and advance to the general election.

    This is seemingly meant to create friction for write-in candidates and to prevent uncontested primaries from being "highjacked" by a write-in candidate. 

  • Write in votes would not be individually listed unless a write-in candidate has filed a consent form (which is due two weeks prior to the election). Otherwise all write-in votes for a candidate who hasn't consented will be listed as a total of generic "write-ins" on election results.
  • A new, secure, method of electronic ballot returns would be offered for overseas military or disabled voters. This would give them the ability vote by absentee ballot if they are absent from the United States or physically cannot make it to polling locations.

  • Under the bill, the State Ethics Commission would be able to notify candidates of delinquency on their financial disclosure forms.

    • Beginning six days after the date of notice, the candidate would be subject $10 per day late fee. The penalty is capped at $1,000.
    • The Ethics Commission and the Candidate may avail themselves of remedies available under the Vermont Setoff Debt Collection Act to collect any unpaid penalty.
  • The bill would also further clarify that a candidate is prohibited from filing a disclosure with the intent to defraud, falsify, conceal, or cover up by trick, scheme, or device a material fact on such disclosure forms. Doing so would constitute a false claim under state law and be referred to the Attorney General.

  • County officials (Judges, Sheriffs, High Bailiffs, and State's Attorneys) would be subject to these financial disclosure requirements the same way that legislators and statewide candidates are today.
  • The bill also moves the state towards a Ranked-Choice-Voting system:

    • The Secretary of State shall make available to voters information regarding ranked-choice voting and provide training to presiding officers in towns, cities, and villages that have adopted ranked-choice voting.

    • A Ranked-Choice Voting Study Committee shall be created to examine issues in implementing ranked-choice voting in Vermont as well as issue recommendations for the implementation of ranked-choice voting for all primary or general elections for state or federal office occurring in 2026.

    • Grants pre-authorization to any municipality who wants to adopt Ranked-Choice Voting, bypassing what would otherwise be a charter-change process that would need to be agreed to by the legislature.

The Good:

  • Expanded ballot access through ranked-choice voting.
  • Strengthened financial disclosure requirements.
  • New electronic voting options for military personal and disabled persons.

The Bad:

  • Limitations on ballot access for independent candidates by moving the filing deadline up.
  • Different election rules for write-in candidates than named candidates.
  • Potential safety and privacy issues introduced by publishing names of local party officials. Email and phone numbers should be sufficient here to serve the public interest.


This bill is a mixed bag, there are some things that are absolutely beneficial to the public interest, such as strengthened financial disclosures and Ranked-Choice Voting. On the other hand, the increased restrictions on independent and write-in candidates are concerning.

While there is a legitimate interest in preventing "sore losers" from running as an independent in a general election, the mechanism chosen here also inhibits other candidates who did not participate in a party primary from running in a general election, and more importantly, prevents them from jumping into that race until AFTER the primaries have happened. This would prevent a potential candidate who was dissatisfied with the primary results from entering the race.

Write-in elections are tricky, this section of the bill is partially in response to concerns from town clerks about the difficulty of counting write-in votes; we get it. However, election laws should first meet the needs of the public, then election officials. The way this provision is written seems to be addressing uncontested primaries where a candidate may enter as a write-in late in the race and win with an insignificant number of votes. While this certainly happens, these candidates often do not fare well in general elections. While the vote thresholds this bill would put in place are not overbearing, one of the challenges of being a write-in candidate is getting people to spell your name correctly on the ballot. We're not kidding. There is a very real possibility that a write-in candidate misses the vote count thresholds in this bill simply because someone misspelled their name. The chances of this happening increase for BIPOC candidates who may have more elaborate names.

Further, this bill introduces a requirement that write-in candidates accept the nomination 10 days prior to the election. We've all heard the term "October surprise," right? Elections can and do change at the last minute and we should not prevent candidates from emerging late in election cycles to respond to new information coming to light. Sometimes these things even happen organically, where a candidate is not even intentionally running a "write-in campaign" and voters just pick that person anyway. This provision would preclude that from happening.

If the sections on independent and write-in candidates were removed, we would support this bill moving forward wholeheartedly. Limiting voter options and ballot access are almost never the answer.


Current Status:

The bill was referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee on June 20, 2023 after passing the House.


CFV coverage on H.429

Read the Bill

More bill summaries


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate Volunteer Reduce Property Tax Burden


get updates