BERLIN, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he cast his ballot Tuesday for Vice President Joe Biden, the first time in his life he voted for a Democrat.
Scott had said for some time that he wouldn’t be voting for his fellow Republican, President Donald Trump, but he hadn’t made up his mind about who he would be voting for. He had promised to reveal his choice after voting.
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“As many of you knew, I didn’t support President Trump. I wasn’t going to vote for him,” Scott said outside his polling location. “But then I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t enough for me to just not vote. I had to vote against. So again it’s — I put country over party, which again wasn’t an easy thing to do in some respects.”
Scott voted in person in a state in which more than 80% of the number of Vermonters who voted in the 2016 presidential election had already cast their ballots for president, governor, the U.S. House representative and other statewide and local races.
The large number of early voters was due, in part, to a change in voting procedures designed to make it safer to cast ballots during the pandemic.
The race between Republican President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, is helping to drive what is expected to be high voter turnout this year. In addition to the major party candidates, there are 19 other presidential candidates on the Vermont ballot. Trump has not visited the state to campaign since being elected.
The first Vermont polling places opened at 7 a.m. , including in Montpelier, where early season snow was falling and the temperature hovered around 28 degrees F (minus 2.2 C). Inside City Hall just before the polls opened, more than a half-dozen voters were waiting, wearing masks and physically distancing on the stairs leading up to the polling station.
Sean Miller, 30, a carpenter and metal fabricator, voted later in the morning, saying he felt strongly about the election.
Whether Trump or Biden wins, he said, “there’s going to be like a lot of unrest and people crying foul.”
In the small town of Plainfield, Daniel Hardy, 62, who is semiretired, said he’s been more politically engaged than in past elections. That’s meant “being more passionate and vocal about the election and what it means, and the direction our country is going in,” he said as he was about to vote at the historic Plainfield Town Hall Opera House, which was originally a church.
The top of the electoral ticket in Vermont pits Scott against Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.
Scott, 61, a former construction executive from Berlin, is a Republican in a heavily Democratic state and seen as popular with the public. He has been given high marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Zuckerman, 48, a Hinesburg farmer, campaigned on promises to do more to advance progressive causes, saying wealthy people should pay more in taxes and Vermont should do more to combat climate change.
For Vermont’s lone U.S. House seat, seven-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is being challenged by Republican Miriam Berry, a registered nurse from Essex Junction who is making her first run for political office.
Voters are also choosing candidates for other statewide offices, including lieutenant governor, attorney general, state treasurer, secretary of state and auditor of accounts.
In local and regional races, Vermonters will elect all 150 members of the state House of Representatives and 30 members of the state Senate.
AP reporter Lisa Rathke contributed from Plainfield and Montpelier, Vt.