Over the years, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has often spoken about a desire to boost voter turnout for local elections on Town Meeting Day. Universal mail-in voting might help, and so might another tweak to the process that he’s wanted to make before.
At his Tuesday news conference, Gov. Scott said he and lawmakers will have a lot of election-related work to do once the new legislative session begins on January 6. By then, Vermont’s next election day will be less than two months away.
“We’ll be having a lot of discussions about Town Meeting in January,” he said. “I’m very concerned.”
The governor’s concern is twofold. The problem of low Town Meeting Day voter turnout isn’t going away, and neither is the problem of COVID-19.
“Obviously, I don’t believe that the problem, the (coronavirus) crisis, will be solved by March,” he said. “That’s why I promoted the fact that we may want to go to mail-in-type ballots, just as we did with the general election.”
Universal mail-in voting helped address both problems. Vermont’s 73.5% voter turnout for the general election earlier this month set an all-time state record for any election. Another way to carry that momentum forward to Town Meeting Day might be to not hold it on the first Tuesday in March, which will be March 2 this time around.
“I know that there’s been some talk within the legislature about the possibility of moving Town Meeting Day to a later date,” the governor said.
Gov. Scott added that he’s called for this himself in the past, and lawmakers may think differently now from how they did then.
“I tried that three or four years ago, as you might remember. I didn’t go over so well, so we’ll see how much luck the — well, actually, it didn’t go over well with the legislature, so we’ll see how effective that is,” he said. “We’ll do whatever we can.”
Three weeks ago, the governor said his administration will consider allowing universal mail-in voting in all future elections. However, he also said he wants to concentrate on Town Meeting Day first.