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Vermont Primary Elections Act (1914)

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Ballot measures
in Vermont
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Constitutional amendments
Statutes referred by Legislature
Amending the Vermont Constitution
Vermont Constitution
Two Vermont Primary Elections Act questions were on the March 1914 ballot in Vermont as legislatively-referred state statutes. The questions were advisory only, and were intended to give the Vermont State Legislature guidance on whether to enact direct primary voting in the state.
  • Yes: 11,312 Approveda
  • No: 8,021

The second question was, "Do you favor a direct primary 1aw whereby the voters are to vote directly for the candidates for state, congressional and county offices?"

  • Yes: 22,645 Approveda
  • No: 5,697
  • Defective ballots: 145

At the turn of the 20th century, candidates for political office in Vermont were chosen at political party caucuses and state conventions. An interest in reform arose because of perceived abuses, including the 1902 Republican gubernatorial nomination contest. From that time forward, a succession of bills were introduced in the Vermont State Legislature to change to direct primaries, usually winning little support.

In 1912, a group in the state Republican Party that had ties to the Bull Moose party of Teddy Roosevelt was successful at winning several seats in the state legislature. These candidates ran on a platform that included support for the direct primary system. Fearing that this wing of the Republican Party would be lost to them, the state Republican Party felt it wise to include a pledge in its 1912 platform to take some steps in the direction of direct nomination of political party candidates.

That pledge led, in turn, to the February 1913 vote to place the advisory questions on the 1914 ballot about direct primaries.

However, the way the questions were asked on the ballot led to confusion in how to interpret the thoughts. Some observers thought that the questions were deliberately "engineered to fragment primary supporters, leaving the door open for retaining the caucus system...Whatever the hoped for results, voter preference was clearly for a primary system and for a direct primary, with 71% of the voters favoring either a non-binding or direct primary. The ballot questions, however, split the vote so that neither primary system received a majority of the total votes cast. The preferential primary received 24% of the total votes; the direct primary, 47%.

The first question was, "Do you favor a preferential primary system whereby the voters may instruct their delegates to political conventions as to their preference for candidates for office?"

Path to the ballot

The Vermont State Legislature authorized the advisory votes on February 22, 1913 when it approved Joint Resolution 491, a "Joint Resolution to Provide for the People to Express their Views Respecting a Preferential Primary and a Direct primary."

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