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Vermont Direct Primary Act (1916)

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A Vermont Direct Primary Act was on the March 7, 1916 ballot in town meetings throughout Vermont as a legislatively-referred state statute, where it was approved.

Act 4 of 1916, "An Act to Provide for Primary Elections," was approved by the Vermont State Legislature on April 1, 1915.

The Vermont State Legislature gave the voters a choice about which date the Direct Primary Act would go into effect because it was the understanding of the Vermont legislature that they could not directly ask the voters to approve or disapprove of a legislative act. Rather, when the legislature wanted to know what the state's voters thought about a particular legislative act, they would put a question on the ballot giving the voters two different dates for when the bill would go into effect. If the voters approved the date furthest in the future, this vote was interpreted by the legislature as a rejection of their legislation.

  • Votes to enact on March 20, 1916: 25,418 Approveda
  • Votes to enact on March 20, 1927: 22,816

Since voters approved the earlier date for the Direct Primary Act to take effect, it was considered by the legislature to have been approved.

An effort to repeal the Direct Primary Act in 1923 failed.

Martin v. Fulham

In the case of Martin v. Fulham, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the Town of Brookfield acted improperly when it refused to let Thomas Martin vote on the Direct Primary Act on March 7, 1916. The town's reasoning was that since Martin owed delinquent taxes to the township, they could forbid him from voting. The state's high court, however, ruled that the vote on the measure was a state election, not a township election, and that a town could not deny township voters their right to vote on state issues.

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