By Guy Page
Despite his misgivings about Town Meeting ballots not disclosing per-pupil costs of school budgets, Gov. Scott has signed a bill extending for two years the current pandemic-era alternatives for Town Meeting.
On January 25, Governor Scott signed a H.42, “An act relating to temporary alternative procedures for annual municipal meetings and electronic meetings of public bodies.”
Town Meeting is traditionally held on the first Tuesday of March, although some school districts opt for a later meeting in anticipation of legislative spending decisions on education. The newly-signed law includes giving municipal boards the choice of forgoing the traditional, in-person Town Meeting in favor of meeting by Zoom or holding voting by Australian ballot.
Scott’s reservations were less about Zoom and more about the lack of financial transparency with tax-burdened voters.
“I’m signing this bill at the request of Vermont municipalities who value an extension to pandemic-era flexibilities,” Scott said. :However, I have concerns with the removal of the disclosure of per pupil costs from Vermonters when voting. Voters deserve this transparency, and I see no defensible reason why we should extend its omission from ballots.
Scott also thinks the Legislature should extend the universal mailed ballot to Town Meeting – something the bill doesn’t do.
“Further, over the past several years, when signing elections legislation, I have continued to call on the Legislature to extend the automatic mailing of ballots to all Vermont elections – including municipal and primary elections. As I have said, we should all support increasing voter participation. Currently, universal mail-in voting only applies to general elections, which already has the highest voter turnout,” Scott said.
Had Scott vetoed the bill, the Legislature likely could have overridden the veto on the strength of the 110+ votes of the Democratic/Progressive supermajority.
“I look forward to reading the Office of the Secretary of State’s report this month, as required by Act 60 of 2021, on how we can implement universal vote by mail for all elections this biennium, thus increasing accessibility and participation in the democratic process for all Vermont elections,” he added. To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2023 legislative session, click here.
Categories: Local government