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Saturday, November 7, 2020

After Biden Win, Election Celebrations Erupt in Burlington

Posted By on Sat, Nov 7, 2020 at 4:52 PM

A man waving a flag to passing vehicles in downtown Burlington - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • A man waving a flag to passing vehicles in downtown Burlington
People sang, cheered, honked and literally danced in the streets of downtown Burlington on Saturday as word of Joe Biden's election victory spread.

A crowd gathered on Church Street at the intersection with Main Street, where volunteers just months ago painted a huge Black Lives Matter mural on the road. Drivers honked their horns as they rolled through the crowd, which erupted into cheers each time.

Some waved American flags. A few held up homemade signs: "You're fired!" was a popular one.

Drivers turned on songs like "Celebration," "God Bless America" and the hip-hop song "FDT" — Fuck Donald Trump.

Downtown streets were gridlocked through the afternoon, and the crowd showed no sign of letting up.

Shortly after the Associated Press and other news outlets called the race for Biden, Gov. Phil Scott issued a statement congratulating the president-elect and his running mate, Kamala Harris.

“This is our moment in time to reclaim our moral compass, move the United States forward and live up to our greatest ideals: Equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for every American," wrote Scott, who voted for Biden.

Outside the Statehouse, some Trump supporters waved flags and signs. A few dozen Biden and Harris supporters celebrated as well on the sunny afternoon.  Lauren Griswold was among the latter group. 

"It's just a huge sigh of relief," Griswold said.
Kevin McCallum contributed reporting. The slideshow on this post was updated with additional photos on November 9, 2020.

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Friday, November 6, 2020

Scott Condemns Trump for Trying to Undermine Election Results

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2020 at 3:53 PM

Gov. Scott speaks at Friday's press conference. - SCREENSHOT/ORCA MEDIA
  • Screenshot/ORCA Media
  • Gov. Scott speaks at Friday's press conference.
In his first public appearance since easily winning reelection on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott on Friday condemned President Donald Trump for sowing distrust in the American electoral process.

Scott, a Republican who told reporters on Tuesday that he'd voted for Democrat Joe Biden, said Trump was “hurting our society and our ability to work together.”

Quoting a tweet from former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, Scott called the president's actions “absolutely shameful,”

"I don't believe any of the statements he made last night are true." Scott read from the tweet, saying, "I agree with this."
Scott’s remarks, at a Friday morning press conference, came in response to the president’s televised appearance Thursday night where he claimed that he would win if only “legal votes” were counted. There is no evidence to indicate any kind of widespread voter fraud.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Seven Takeaways From Vermont's 2020 Election

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2020 at 11:35 PM

Outside a polling place in Stowe on Election Day - FILE: KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Outside a polling place in Stowe on Election Day
Is it over yet?

At the current rate, the counting of presidential ballots from Pennsylvania to Georgia may never end. But here in Vermont, Election Day came and went without incident. The results of most races — with the exception of a recount or two — were apparent by late Tuesday night.

So now that the dust has settled, what should we make of it all? To help answer that question, Seven Days came up with seven takeaways from the 2020 election.

Scott Absolutely Crushed It
Gov. Phil Scott speaking to reporters after voting Tuesday in Berlin - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Paul Heintz ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Phil Scott speaking to reporters after voting Tuesday in Berlin
It's hard to overstate the magnitude of Gov. Phil Scott's victory.

The Berlin Republican won 248,353 votes, or 67 percent of those cast, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State's Office. That's more than two and a half times the 99,200 votes his Progressive/Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, received. And, amazingly, it's 5,469 more than even Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden picked up in true-blue Vermont.

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Scott's Victory Lap: Gov Wins Third Term, Gray Elected LG, Speaker Johnson Falls Short

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2020 at 1:47 AM

Gov. Phil Scott declares victory Tuesday in a video shot in his motorcycle garage. - SCREENSHOT ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Screenshot ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Phil Scott declares victory Tuesday in a video shot in his motorcycle garage.
Updated at 4:28 a.m.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott waltzed to a third term on Tuesday, while Democratic newcomer Molly Gray was elected Vermont’s fourth female lieutenant governor.

And in the upset of the evening, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) appeared headed for defeat. Unofficial results showed Rep. Leland Morgan (R-Milton) and his nephew, fellow Milton Republican Michael Morgan, ahead in the two-seat House district — with Johnson trailing 18 votes behind the latter. Given the narrow margin, Johnson declined to concede on Tuesday night and said she would seek a recount.

“It’s not uncommon for Vermont House elections to be extremely close,” she said in a written statement. “Over the years, we’ve seen tight races and recounts in this district. I want to ensure every vote is counted and that we have clarity on the outcome of this election.”
House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero)
The 2020 election saw the highest voter turnout in state history. With 97 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, more than 353,000 ballots had been counted, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Vermont’s previous record, set in 2008, was 326,822.

Though the outcome of the presidential election remained unclear early Wednesday, the preference of Vermonters was readily apparent. Preliminary results showed Democratic former vice president Joe Biden leading Republican President Donald Trump 66 to 30 percent. That’s a wider margin than in 2016, when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton led Trump 56 to 30 percent, with 6 percent writing in Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Vermont Picks Biden, Welch Wins Reelection

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 7:05 PM

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in March - JOE SOHM | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Joe Sohm | Dreamstime.com
  • Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in March
Updated at 11:44 p.m.

Shade Vermont blue on your Election Night map: The Green Mountain State's three electoral votes are going for Democrat Joe Biden.

Vermont was one of a handful of states where polls closed at 7 p.m., and the Associated Press immediately called the race here for Biden. With 97 percent of precincts reporting as of about 2:00 a.m., Biden had about 66 percent of the vote to approximately 30 percent for Trump.

The outcome was never in doubt, and it comes four years after Democrat Hillary Clinton took 56 percent of the vote to Donald Trump's 30 percent.

Vermont has not gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, when then-vice president George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis, then the Democratic governor of Massachusetts.

Also never in doubt: U.S. Rep. Peter Welch's (D-Vt.) reelection. He easily fended off challenges from four independent candidates, a Republican and a communist to maintain his at-large seat in the House of Representatives. Welch was first elected to Congress in 2006. The AP called the race for him at 7:03 p.m.

As of 2:00 a.m., Welch had 65 percent of the vote to 26 percent for his closest challenger, Republican Miriam Berry of Essex.

Neither Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) nor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were on the ballot Tuesday. Leahy is up for reelection in 2022, Sanders in 2024. But if Democrats retake the U.S. Senate in the election, both men could be in line for committee chairmanships.

At a virtual event for Vermont Democrats Tuesday night, Welch said he was looking forward to the party's congressional gains and to the prospect of Leahy chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee, in the event the Dems take the chamber.

"We're going to be able to return to the reasons that motivated each of us to get into politics in the first place," Welch said. "It's about using government to try to solve difficult problems in a way that's helpful to everyday people."
Across Lake Champlain in New York’s 21st congressional district, incumbent U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) easily fended off Tedra Cobb, a Democrat who challenged Stefanik for the second time.
Back in Vermont, Winooski voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot item to allow noncitizen immigrants to vote in local elections, the second Vermont municipality to pass what’s known as “all-resident voting” in as many years.

The measure passed 2,479 to 999, according to unofficial results Tuesday night. The “yes” vote is to change the city’s charter, a decision that the state legislature and governor must now approve. Noncitizens would be able to vote in city and school elections; state and federal races remain off-limits.

The vote is significant for Winooski, a city of 7,300 that boasts Vermont’s most diverse population and the state’s only majority-minority school district. Nearly 10 percent of residents there are not U.S. citizens.

Prashant Singh, an Indian immigrant who moved to Winooski in 2014, was nearly speechless when Seven Days told him the result of the vote.

“That’s great news,” he said just before 7:30 Tuesday night, adding, “I don’t have words to say, but I’m so, so happy.”

Singh was one of two noncitizens to serve on Winooski’s Charter Commission, which helped bring the item to the ballot. His application for legal permanent residency has been in a queue for four years, and he would have to hold that status for five years before he could apply for citizenship. Meantime, he works in Winooski, owns a home there and sends his children to Winooski schools.

Proponents of the measure argued that situations such as Singh’s amount to taxation without representation. Opponents, however, said that voting is a sacred right that should be reserved for American citizens.

Charter commission chair Liz Edsell said the vote affirms that Winooski strives to be an inclusive, multicultural city.

“There are many challenges and barriers to that, and this is one barrier that we’re breaking down,” she said, adding, “This is a very tangible, positive step forward for our community and for our democracy.”

Montpelier voters adopted a similar charter change in November 2018, but the measure stalled in the Statehouse. The bill must be reintroduced next year in the Senate. Unofficial results show that 3,734 voters cast ballots on Tuesday, a 68 percent voter turnout.

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Phil Scott, Vermont's GOP Governor, Says He Voted for Joe Biden

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Gov. Phil Scott speaking to reporters after voting - PAUL HEINTZ ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Paul Heintz ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Phil Scott speaking to reporters after voting
Updated at 5:13 p.m.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he cast his presidential ballot for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. That makes him the only incumbent Republican governor in the country to publicly disclose his support for the former vice president.

“I put country over party,” Scott said.

The governor has made clear for months that he would not vote for Republican President Donald Trump, but he has been coy about whom he would support.

Gov. Scott submitting his ballot Tuesday - PAUL HEINTZ ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Paul Heintz ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Scott submitting his ballot Tuesday
“It’s been a bit of a struggle for me, but I ended up voting for Joe Biden,” he told reporters outside his local town office in Berlin, after depositing his ballot in an optical scanner. According to Scott, he had never before backed a Democrat for president. “So I had to do some soul-searching,” he said.

“President Trump has had four years to unite this country and has failed to do so,” Scott said. “We need someone who can pull us together. Our country needs to heal, and I’m very concerned about what another four years will do to our country. We’re so polarized here. We’re so divided, and it’s become so tribal. We need leaders. We need role models that will step up and pull us together as one country, and I’m afraid that President Trump misses the mark.”

Scott said he disagrees with many of Biden’s policy proposals but believes the vice president has what it takes to bridge the nation’s partisan divide. “I think he can heal the country,” the governor said. “I think he can bring us together.”

Scott also made clear that he expected Biden to remember voters like him if he makes it to the White House.

“It’s also my hope that he will realize that it wasn’t the right that got him elected, if he is elected,” the governor said. “It wasn’t the extreme left who got him elected. It’s the moderates, the centrists — and that’s where I am. Because if he’s elected, it’s because the moderates and the centrists came to his defense.”

Scott himself is up for reelection on Tuesday. He's facing Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat.

“Oh, I should mention: I voted for Phil Scott for governor, as well,” Scott told the gaggle of reporters eagerly awaiting his presidential decision outside the town offices. “I know you were all waiting for me to announce that, as well.”

Though several other prominent incumbent Republicans have said they would not back Trump — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker among them — none have endorsed Biden. Romney has kept his vote private. Hogan said he wrote in the late president Ronald Reagan. Baker said Tuesday, "I blanked it," according to WBUR.

In Vermont, Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne said he wrote in former governor Jim Douglas for president — as he and Scott said they did in 2016.

Scott said Tuesday that it might have been easier if he had written in a non-candidate’s name this time around, too. But, he said, “I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t enough for me to just not vote. I had to vote against [Trump].”

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Kavanaugh Corrects Error About Vermont Voting Rules in a Published Opinion

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2020 at 2:10 PM

Justice Brett Kavanaugh - U.S. SUPREME COURT ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • U.S. Supreme Court ©️ Seven Days
  • Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Vermont election officials succeeded this week in getting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to correct an error about state election rules that he included in a high-profile opinion regarding mail-in ballots.

“Justice Kavanaugh simply got this wrong,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said in a statement Thursday.

In an opinion concurring with the court’s decision not to extend Wisconsin’s deadline for receiving absentee ballots past Election Day, Kavanaugh noted that states have passed different election rules in response to the pandemic. He observed this variation “reflects our constitutional system of federalism. Different state legislatures may make different choices."

The problem was that he misstated Vermont's response to the pandemic, suggesting the Green Mountain State had made no changes to its election rules.

“Other States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots," Kavanaugh wrote Monday.

The ruling generated national media attention because it was widely viewed as a win for Republicans and efforts to limit how a key battleground state will count mail-in votes.

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Monday, October 26, 2020

Leahy and Sanders Vote No as Senate Confirms Barrett

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2020 at 8:58 PM

Judge Amy Coney Barrett - ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Associated Press
  • Judge Amy Coney Barrett
A bitterly divided U.S. Senate on Monday night confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, overriding protests from Democrats who warned that doing so just eight days before a presidential election would jeopardize the integrity of America's highest institutions.

The 52-48 vote fell almost entirely among party lines, with all but one Republican — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — voting to confirm. Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted no as part of a unified Democratic front opposed to Barrett's confirmation for reasons of both policy and principle.

During a 15-minute speech Sunday on the Senate floor, Leahy said he believed Barrett would "set the clock back decades on all of the rights that Americans have fought so hard to achieve and protect." And taking aim at his GOP colleagues, he said, "The Republican arguments come down to one thing: 'We have the votes, so anything goes.' Yet having the power to do something does not make it right."

Sanders echoed those comments a day later, writing on Twitter that Barrett's confirmation process amounted to nothing less than a "illegitimate power grab" by Republicans.

“Today is a shameful day for our democracy," he wrote.
Barrett's confirmation comes as more than 60 million Americans have already cast ballots for the November 3 election. Her ascension to the high court gives conservatives a 6-3 advantage and marks President Donald Trump's third successful nomination, handing him a much-needed win in the waning days of a reelection bid that finds him trailing in national polls to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Scott Says He Would Replace Sanders With Democrat-Affiliated Independent

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2020 at 4:26 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders in Madison, Wis., in 2015 - FILE: ERIC TADSEN
  • File: Eric Tadsen
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders in Madison, Wis., in 2015
A report that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is seeking a position in a potential Joe Biden administration has raised questions about who would succeed Sanders in the Senate.

Citing unnamed sources close to Sanders, Politico reported Thursday that the Vermonter is interested in serving as Biden's labor secretary should Biden win the presidential election next month. Neither Sanders nor the Biden campaign corroborated the report, and a Sanders spokesperson declined to comment Friday when queried by Seven Days.

But the possibility of a vacancy in Vermont's congressional delegation, which hasn't occurred since 2006, has renewed focus on the role Republican Gov. Phil Scott might play in filling it. State law dictates that the governor schedule a special election within six months of a vacancy and that the winner complete the former occupant's term. Sanders' current term ends in January 2025. The governor is also empowered to select an interim senator to fill the post until a special election is held.

Asked in February what he would do if Sanders stepped down from the Senate, Scott told Seven Days that he would appoint an independent who had no plans to run for the seat. But he would not say whether he would expect that independent to caucus with Senate Democrats or Republicans, which could decide control of a closely divided chamber.

"I think I would be looking for somebody that fits all the qualifications and is independent by nature, and I don't know [that] I would have a litmus test of any other sort," Scott said at the time.

But at an unrelated press conference on Friday, the governor changed his tune.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Leahy Warns of 'Irreparable' Harm as Barrett Hearings Close

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2020 at 2:51 PM

Judge Amy Coney Barrett - ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Associated Press
  • Judge Amy Coney Barrett
U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday successfully scheduled a committee vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court, plowing past objections from Democrats such as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who slammed the proceedings as a "caricature of illegitimacy."

Leahy's comments were wedged between two separate votes Thursday morning, the verdicts of which all but ensured the high-speed train that is Barrett's confirmation would reach its destination before Election Day.

The GOP-controlled Judiciary Committee twice voted along party lines to both strike down a Democratic attempt to delay the hearing indefinitely and to schedule Barrett's confirmation vote for October 22.

If the committee decides to advance her nomination that day, the full Senate could vote as soon as October 26 — eight days before the November 3 election. Senate GOP leaders say they have the votes to confirm.

"There's really no way to gloss over how wrong and base this process is," Leahy said, participating in the hearing remotely for the fourth straight day over health concerns related to the coronavirus.

"The damage inflicted in the wake of this outrageous power grab is going to be considerable, perhaps even irreparable, both to the U.S. Senate and to the federal judiciary," he said. "It doesn't have to be this way. This doesn't have to be the story of Judge Barrett's nomination."

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