Vermont town clerks prepare for Town Meeting Day COVID measures

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 4:59 PM EST
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MORETOWN, Vt. (WCAX) - Town Meeting Day is about a month away and local clerks across the state are putting the finishing touches on their pandemic voting plans, many of which look different than usual.

Moretown Town Clerk Cherilyn Brown is gearing up to officially post the town meeting warning and send out Australian ballots to voters. On Town Meeting Day, she is organizing a drive-through ballot drop-off system, in addition to standard absentee mailings.

“It worked out really well for the general election, kept the voters safe, kept the election workers safe. Everyone was really happy with it, which is why we decided to go this route again,” Brown said.

Moretown’s approach is one of a constellation of ideas selectboards and city councils have come up with after the Legislature and the secretary of state gave towns the greenlight to get creative with administering the time-honored town meeting tradition.

It’s unclear exactly how many towns are mailing ballots or moving their meetings back, but the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ Karen Horn most towns are opting for Australian ballots. “It’s all Australian ballot and you can vote from your living room the way you did in the general election. You might get a whole lot more participation than on a Tuesday morning when people trumped into a town hall,” she said.

In the Lamoille County town of Belvidere, the selectboard voted to push the meeting back to June 8th. That’s because many don’t have adequate broadband to attend a virtual informational meeting. “A lot of folks here in Belvidere here really like gathering and looking face-to-face with the people who are answering the questions about money, about positions, what they’re for,” said Town Clerk Cathy Mander-Adams.

As towns gear up to vote on school budgets, elected offices, and countless other local issues -- like the 23 towns considering whether to allow local cannabis businesses when pot becomes legal next year -- Brown and other town clerks say that the COVID meeting procedures this year are only temporary. “Until COVID is gone and everyone is safe, it’s probably going to stay like this for a little bit,” she said.

The secretary of state’s office sent out a survey of what approaches towns are taking. That data is expected to come out next week.

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