Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
‘People don’t have the time and energy to come together …’
FLETCHER — On Vermont’s Primary Election day Tuesday, Fletcher Clerk Elaine Sweet didn’t expect a huge voter turnout.
And sure enough, by the end of the day just 40 people had walked through the town office door. Sweet, who is 61 and has been town clerk for 30 years, said that although she wasn’t looking for a large crowd, seeing only dozens out of Fletcher’s 875 registered voters was a little disappointing.
“This is slower than normal,” she said.
Sweet, who was born in and grew up in Fletcher, attributed the town’s lackluster primary election day not only to the lack of local races and few statewide contests – about 80 percent show for a presidential election, she said – but to a change in the community’s makeup.
Farmers and neighbors who knew each other have been replaced by what Sweet called a “bedroom community,” or residents with jobs in Chittenden County who sought out the more affordable property prices in Franklin County. Sweet said this occurred when farming became unsustainable financially, causing farmers to sell off lots for housing.
“[In the past], everybody pitched in and worked together to have it all come together,” Sweet said. “People don’t have the time and energy to come together and work together as a community, I guess.”
While Sweet said she and others working in the town offices used to go beyond their job descriptions and encourage Fletcher’s residents to get them more involved, they have since stopped.
“I think after awhile, the people that are active in town offices, because it’s the same ones over and over again, get burned out from reaching out,” said Sweet.
Sweet did say that there are the few resident that are very dedicated to their civic duty, like the one voter who came in and told Sweet she’s taken every opportunity possible to vote since she turned 18.
“I said, good for you,” Sweet said. “[Voters] have got to let their voices be heard.”
Not only that, but Sweet pointed out that state and town money was spent on these primary elections – she had four large stacks of ballots in front of her that would go largely unused, for instance.
“There’s going to be a lot of scrap paper,” Sweet said. She added that the town was also paying volunteering civil board members – the town’s clerk, five selectboard members, and seven justices of the peace – $25 each to act as election officials. Four civil board members are supposed to be at the polls at all times.
One of those civil board members, resident and selectboard member Annette Kalinoski, came in the town offices just after 4 p.m. yesterday. Kalinoski, 56, said her family has a history of participating in local politics.
“It was always a big deal in our house, election day,” Kalinoski said. “I think elections are important.”