Town Meeting has traditionally been a day for Vermonters to gather to discuss and vote on local issues, but the pandemic has altered the tradition in many Vermont communities.
This year, while some smaller towns will meet in person, most Vermont communities including Burlington, South Burlington and Montpelier are following a different tradition: paper ballots.
“Burlington, because of the size of the city,” said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. “It’s been a long time since we’ve done that.”
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns says only a quarter of Vermont communities will hold in-person floor votes Tuesday. The organization said prior to the pandemic, more than three-quarters of cities and towns held floor votes. The league says the pandemic has caused thousands of people to vote early, by mail or in a voting booth.
Polls around the state opened at 7 a.m.
In Burlington, six City Council races are on the ballot, along with the five ballot measures, including the school district budget, a city tax increase, and a bond issue. A proposed charter would change how the city regulates sex work.
For the first time, cities like Montpelier and Winooski are allowing non-citizens to vote on their Town Meeting Days. City Manager Bill Fraser said only a handful of people fit into that category this year.
“There just might not be many people who live in the community who fit that category or who are interested in voting right now,” Fraser said. “It’ll probably grow as time goes on but right now that’s where we’re at.”
More than 40 Vermont communities will be voting on whether to allow retail marijuana operations. The Vermont Legislature legalized the sale of recreational marijuana starting this year but cities and towns have to vote whether to allow sales in their communities.
Not all towns are having Town Meeting on Tuesday — several have postponed the meeting until later this year.