Vermont has a proud history of holding floor meetings on Town Meeting Day — gathering residents into the town hall on the designated day to hash out issues and vote on ballot articles in person. With the dawn of COVID-19, this tradition has gone by the wayside for 2021.
This year, towns across the state that traditionally conducted Town Meeting Day in person are switching to voting by Australian ballot. Coinciding with that change, Gov. Phil Scott last month signed into law a bill that allows towns to alter town meeting procedures, including changing the day it is held and mailing out ballots to every registered voter.
While a handful of Franklin County towns will be automatically sending out ballots to registered voters, residents of every town in the state can request absentee ballots to avoid polling places and potential exposure to COVID-19 — an issue that has come to the fore recently in Franklin County due to a spike in reported cases.
The Vermont Secretary of State website outlines processes for obtaining absentee ballots online, by mail and in person.
“Voting starts as soon as ballots are available — not later than 45 days before the primary or general election and 20 days prior to a municipal election that uses the Australian ballot,” the website states.
Voters may apply for an absentee ballot online through the My Voter page on the secretary of state website, found here: mvp.vermont.gov
Alternatively, voters may print a request form (found here: https://bit.ly/3bai2dw) from the website and deliver or mail it to the town clerk for the municipality in which they reside.
Residents can always call or visit their local town clerk to request absentee ballots as well. For this, the secretary of state’s office has compiled contact information for Vermont’s town clerks in one place, found here: https://bit.ly/3bkUu5Y
All early voter absentee ballot requests must be submitted by 5 p.m. or by the close of the town clerk’s office on the day before the election, according to the secretary of state’s office. All ballots must be returned to the town clerk’s office before the close of the office on the day before the election, or to the polling place before 7 p.m. on the day of the election, in order to be counted.
More information can be found on the secretary of state’s website: https://bit.ly/3u4sL1M