Local government

Paid time off to vote for Town Meeting, other elections

by Ciara McEneany, Community News Service

Legislators may be looking at a bill to provide two hours paid leave for employees to vote in primary, general and Town Meeting Day elections. 

The bill, H.298, was referred to the House Committee on General and Housing in late February aiming to give Vermonters more opportunities to vote. 

Its sponsor, Rep. Joseph “Chip” Troiano, D-Stannard, said he drafted the bill after years of hearing comments about lacking attendance for Town Meeting Day and other elections. 

“When some of the stakeholders came to me and made the suggestion, I said yes,” Troiano said. “This is consistent with what I’ve been hearing in my communities around voting access for quite a few years.” 

Advocates believe having to work on election days can be a barrier for working class Vermonters, who either decide against voting because they would lose income or simply can’t leave work to begin with. 

“There’s always folks that we talk to on the day of an election that thought they were going to be able to go vote, and then they got called to do an extra shift or they had a daycare issue, and they just can’t make it directly,” said Dan Fingas, Vermont movement politics director for Rights and Democracy, a progressive nonprofit working in Vermont and New Hampshire. “People’s lives are unpredictable and there’s lots of barriers.” 

Some groups believe Vermont has already done enough to make voting accessible to everyone and that giving people paid time off is inessential.  

“People currently already have a lot of opportunities to vote early by mail,” said Betty Keller, member of the League of Women Voters of Vermont. “The bill says that you can get two hours off and be paid, which I don’t think is necessary. If we didn’t have mail-in voting or early voting, then that would make sense, but now that we have those, I don’t know that it’s essential.” 

The more prominent issue the bill looks to address is making sure that all residents get a chance to participate in Town Meeting Day, which can be difficult to attend in person for those working, according to Troiano.  

“Some communities don’t get as high a percentage of their population to Town Meeting Day elections as others,” he said. “So, I think that it’s important to increase the attendance at these town meetings because school budgets, school boards, road budgets and now ARPA funds that have been coming into our communities really should have input from as many of our citizens as possible.”

The bill hasn’t yet been introduced in committee, but Troiano said it will most likely see movement this session. He hopes the bill will be met with little opposition. 

“It’ll be subject to committee input, and we’ll see where it comes out,” he said. “I thought the bill came out quite well, and I think that people will appreciate some of the issues that it aims to address.”

Editor’s note: H298 is not on the House Gov Ops agenda this week and is unlikely to be voted out before the Crossover deadline this Friday. However, it could still be reviewed this year, voted on under several House Rules scenarios, or possibly voted on next year.

Categories: Local government

3 replies »

  1. PAID TIME OFF to vote? Yeah…most people’s shifts are from 7am to 7pm. Uh-huh….yeppers.

    Welcome to Vermont: The Crackpot State. (Or crackpipe, whichever you choose as both obviously apply).

  2. Sooo just so I’ve got this clear…the state is again going to give us direction about how we should run our business…how to pursue our happiness. When are they going to get to the serious issues we face…what color socks to wear on Tuesdays…what time to go to bed… Wouldn’t it be interesting to catalogue all the places where we’ve allowed the commonweal to perpetuate this delusion that they are give us permission to live, and how.

  3. And so on town meeting day, the whole state gets two hours off, 10am-12, to go vote????? Nobody at the factory, checking out groceries, plowing the road, driving the bus….seriously people!?