From mail-in ballots to business as usual, Vermont municipalities prepare for Town Meeting

Local News

Town Meeting Day is less than a week away, and if you’re still holding on to a mail-in ballot, officials say you should drop it off in person to ensure it’s counted on March 2.

In South Burlington, every voter got a ballot in the mail earlier this month, and additional ballots were sent out to voters who registered after that date. City Clerk Donna Kinville said there hasn’t been a lot of returns yet.

“We sent out over 14,000 ballots, and as of last night, we’ve only got 2,100 back,” Kinville said.

This year, Vermont towns were given some flexibility in how they run Town Meeting Day – some have delayed their election, others have mailed ballots every voter, and others haven’t made any significant changes to previous years.

It’s kept Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos and his staff quite busy.

“I think since we’ve issued that directive, we’ve spent every day, my team, working with the towns whether it’s town clerks, selectboard members, how they’re going to operate,” Condos said.

The lack of returned ballots in South Burlington had Kinville worried that a historical lack of interest in Town Meeting Day affairs might continue this year, despite mail-in voting giving a slight boost to voter turnout.

“I know it’s because it’s harder to know about the issues because you have to go looking to them, but it kind of surprises me every year that such low turnout comes for this election,” Kinville said. “It really is one that hits close to home. This is what the future of your city and towns look like, this is what your budget looks like, this is what schools look like.”

The city of Rutland landed on the other end of the Town Meeting Day flexibility spectrum, with officials ultimately deciding against mailing ballots out to voters. City Clerk Henry Heck said there wasn’t enough time to make significant adjustments like widespread mail-in ballots.

“We’re doing just what we’ve normally done in the recent past, we’re not doing any kind of group mailing,” Heck said. “If people want to request an absentee ballot like they have in the past, we’re accommodating that, but we’re not doing a special mass mailing.”

In the coming months, that status quo could be changing for general elections in all Vermont municipalities. The Senate Government Operations Committee passed a bill that would make universally mailed ballots a permanent feature.

Condos has been a big proponent of the legislation.

“People have very busy lives and it’s not always easy for them to get time off of work,” Condos said. “Being able to vote from your kitchen table and take time to fill out your ballot not feeling rushed when you go to the polls, I think is a good thing.”

If you’re holding on to a mail-in ballot, you should see what the process is in your town for turning it in on time. In South Burlington, Kinville said there’s a 24/7 drop box located outside of City Hall.

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