Many in county have already voted
ADDISON COUNTY — In a normal election year dozens — sometimes scores — of absentee ballots come into town clerks’ offices around Addison County before the main event, Election Day — when voters stream into the polls to make their voices heard in person.
2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic, the year when every registered voter in Vermont received a ballot in the mail, the year when one of the most divisive presidents in the past century is on the ballot, is not a normal election year.
No surprise that town clerks planned for a huge number of early ballots arriving at their offices, and no surprise that the ballots indeed are arriving early. Middlebury has received over 2,400 so far — 47% of the ballots sent out.
In Waltham, Town Clerk Mary Ann Castimore had received 209 of the 403 ballots sent out, as of Oct. 16. That means that more than half the electorate had voted two and half weeks before Election Day.
That’s just fine with Castimore, who worried that in-person voting could spread the virus to volunteers working at the polls, many of whom are older and more vulnerable to it.
“It makes me very happy,” she said. “It’s safer for the poll workers.”
At the Waltham town offices, as at most municipal offices, Castimore and crew have been taking the ballots out of their mailing envelopes and locking them in a ballot safe. The Board of Civil Authority will open the ballots after in-person voting closes at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 and count them with the votes cast that day.
“It’s going to be a long day,” Castimore said.
All active registered voters in Vermont were sent a ballot by mail between Sept. 21 and Oct. 1. If you have not received a ballot please contact your town clerk.
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, the state’s chief elections officer, urged people to read ballot instructions carefully and follow them closely so that they will be counted. He also urged people to mail their ballots by Oct. 24 so town clerks receive them by Election Day, as is required by Vermont law.
Most Addison County towns have also set up ballot drop boxes at or near their town offices. In Goshen and Granville town officials hired contractors to pour cement slabs and install secure metal boxes for the purpose. In other places, like Waltham, Weybridge, Bridport, Salisbury and Orwell, clerks are asking that ballots be dropped through a mail slot into a secure collection point.
See a list of all the ballot drop box locations in Addison County and Brandon in the Voter Guide in today’s edition of the Addison Independent.
Waltham obviously isn’t the only town receiving lots of early ballots. According to a voter tracker put together by the Community News Service, most Addison County towns have logged 25-45 percent of their ballots returned already. See the most recent numbers online at communitynews.net/vote-tracker-2020.
Vermonters can track their absentee ballots on the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page: mvp.vermont.gov. You can see when your vote was requested, when it was issued, and whether it was received by your town clerk.
In a note published in today’s letters to the editor section, Lincoln Town Clerk Sally Ober says the number of absentee ballots she and her staff are processing is six times higher than normal.
“My job as your town clerk is usually 33 hours a week, but since the beginning of July, I have been averaging 57 hours trying to keep up with the demands,” Ober wrote. “Just this past week, I have come to realize that we are losing some ground trying to handle our call volumes, emails, and processing mountains of mail each day. As with big Vermont snowstorms that dump on us, we will eventually dig ourselves out and get caught up. Until Nov. 4, election tasks will be our number one priority.”
Eric Davis, a political science professor emeritus at Middlebury College, looks for a landslide of votes in this election.
“As of this afternoon, over 148,000 Vermont voters had already returned their ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s office,” he said on Monday. “I would not be surprised if the final turnout in Vermont is about 350,000, with as much as 70% of the vote cast in advance.”
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