After reading the proposals and Donna Kelty's responses, I have to agree
with her concerns about same-day voter registration. We all know that it
is human nature to procrastinate, and I am afraid that people will see no
reason to register in advance if they know they can wait until election
day. Why would they bother to register early if they are going to come to
the polls anyway? In Marshfield we had very few problems on election day,
other than the waiting, and we were able to deal with all but one of the
problems that came up (and that voter had moved to another town several
years ago, and been removed from our checklist voluntarily). If we have
same-day registration, people will be forced to wait longer at the polls -
I don't see a way around that. Even if we have a table set off to the side
to deal with the applications, there will still be a delay while the names
are hand-written on the list. Our society is becoming so fast-paced -
everyone is in a hurry. I worry that if we no longer have to meet a
registration deadline, and we no longer have to take an oath, this
diminishes the importance of the election, and some people may walk away
rather than stand in line. Yes, the oath may be self-administered but very
few people will read it or take it seriously. They don't read the
certification that they sign on the present application. I had one voter
sign and swear that he was a resident, only to find out after he voted that
he moved away years ago. This may be a felony but that only matters if
someone is willing to prosecute, and apparently no one is.
I feel very strongly about the purity of the elections and take pride in
the fact that we do it right and we do it well, and for the most part
everyone' s vote counts. But at some point the voter has to take some
responsibility for the privilege of voting. I believe in doing everything
that we can to increase voter turnout but I feel the solution is more
education, and I know that you are making progress in that area. As clerks
we should all be talking to our schools, to get the younger people
interested in democracy. I think the problem of low turnout is a result of
apathy rather than the difficulty of voter registration. I think people
who truly want to vote will do what they need to in order to register, and
it isn't the application process that is keeping people away. I would hate
to see us create a more hectic election day and cause more people to be
disillusioned with the system that we have, only to find out that it
creates more problems than it solves.
Perhaps same-day registration won't seem as daunting when all of our
polling places are on-line, but that isn't going to be the case in the near
I can understand the idea that same-day registration may help to alleviate
the problems associated with moter-voter, but if the state-wide voter
checklist is accessible to the public, will voters be able to go online
before election day to check that they are registered? This would have
prevented most of the problems that we had, because most of the people who
registered with DMV were skeptical about it and came to the polls wondering
if they were on the checklist. Most of them seemed concerned enough that
they would have checked ahead of time if they had known how, and we simply
gave them an affidavit and they voted.
If other town clerks are finding that people try to register and just miss
the deadline, maybe we could move the deadline to be closer to the
election. Dare I suggest the day before, to coincide with the deadline for
absentee ballots? This would still give us time to finalize our checklists
before the polls open (although it would make for a crazy morning or a late
evening). While I'm on the subject of deadlines, I noticed that you are
proposing to change the registration deadline to 5:00. I agree that noon
doesn't make sense, but could the deadline be the "regular close of
business" for consistency's sake?
Regarding changing the date of the primary, if it has to be changed, I
would prefer the end of August over the beginning of June, for a couple of
reasons. I think more people take vacations earlier in the summer rather
than later, meaning more election workers would be available in
August. And people often request absentee ballots for both the primary and
general elections at the same time, and that would mean someone might be
requesting a ballot in May for an election in November. That leaves 6
months when the person could move and forget to give us their new
address. This happens so frequently with tax bills that I'm sure it would
also happen with ballots, and mail doesn't always get forwarded.
On the subject of absentee ballots, hooray for the suggestion to let us
check them off the day before. As you know we have a high percentage of
voters using the absentee process, and I spent many hours on election day
standing in the check-in line, trying to read a few names at a time in
between voters without making anyone wait. I am in favor of anything that
would streamline the process on election day and help the voters to get
II would also like to see the minutes from the clerk's advisory committee,
to help me see the other side of the issues. I appreciate the opportunity
that you are giving us to voice our concerns.
At 04:04 PM 1/26/2005 -0500, you wrote:
> I have downloaded the memorandum mentioned in the email you sent
> regarding changes to the Election law. Here are my initial concerns:
>Item 1: Change the date of the Primary Election to second Tuesday of June
>or last Tuesday of August. Barre Town is on a fiscal year. By having
>the primary in June (the end of a fiscal year) this would allow for a
>more level funding of elections from year to year. Example: Primary
>would be in one fiscal year and General Election in another fiscal year.
>Major costs for municipalities due to programming of machines, etc.
>Item #2: Same day voter registration. I agree it may help eliminate the
>motor-voter issue, but I disagree that it makes it easier for Town Clerks.
> In Barre Town our checklist for the past General Election was
> 5496. I had two officials whose duty is was to assist those individuals
> who were not on our checklist. Of the 87 people we assisted, 36 were
> added to the checklist, 2 were turned away, and the remainder sent to
> other municipalities where they were registered to vote (determined by
> using cell phones to call other municipal clerks).
> In my 15 years working at Barre Town I have found residents to be
> "procrastinators" when it comes to voting. Changing to same day voter
> registration only encourages individuals to put off the task until voting
> day. This then becomes a nightmare. Currently Barre Town has a paper
> check-in list at the polling place. Whenever a name is added to the
> checklist during polling hours it is written on the paper check-in list
> (which must be retained for 5 years). There were 266 names added to the
> checklist for the General Election. (Remember the checklist had been
> updated for the September 2004 Primary.) I can't help but wonder if
> same day voter registration were allowed how many of those 266 would have
> waited until election day to register! Try reconciling a cluttered
> check-in list voter count to the paper count from the voting
> machines. I can't see where this is easier for a clerk
> With the new statewide checklist comes the use of technology. In trying
> to come to terms with the most efficient way to handle same day voter
> registration I find it NECESSARY to have internet access at the polling
> place to be connected to the statewide checklist. Being connected would
> allow the following: immediate change a residency; almost eliminate the
> possibility of trying to register to vote in more than one town; and
> reduce the number of staff hours required to enter the additions the
> following day (duplication of work - very inefficient).
> While internet access would solve the problem, it creates another for
> me and most clerks. My polling place is not located at the municipal
> building but at the local elementary school gymnasium and currently does
> not have internet access. Infrastructure improvements are scheduled to
> be completed sometime in 2006-2007.
> Changes to Section 2144a - Registration (4): I am not happy with the
> proof of identification. One of those items may not enough. First of
> all you mention that many Vermont residents have mailing addresses that
> are different from the E-911 address. Barre Town is no exception and has
> 5 different zip codes. Therefore, identification should be more than
> just a photo ID. I would assume most individuals would use a VT drivers
> license. I have a staff member whose mailing address is Websterville
> (within Barre Town) but physically resides in Orange. Since a drivers
> license does not necessarily provide a physical location another form of
> evidence should be presented.
> Utility bills should not be acceptable UNLESS they include the
> physical location of the property and clearly show the owners
> name. Washington County Electric Bills do not give a physical location
> of the property. Green Mountain Power bills do give a physical
> location. However, if you return the payment stub, then the owner
> information is missing and you don't know who owns the property. This
> means someone could bring a current utility bill (minus the payment stub)
> and I could not confirm the bill belonged to the person presenting it.
> The ID section should note that at lease one piece of identifying
> documentation must contain the E-911 property location.
>3. Make the voters oath self-administered - While it would make my life
>easier and I don't oppose the change, I would hate to see the
>administering of oath go by the wayside. Registering to vote should be
>held in highest regard and not treated as some daily ritual like doing
>dishes. By eliminating this step I feel as though we are showing
>disrespect to those who have given their lives so that citizens can be
>given this privilege. Is this the message we want to send?
> I have worked with many young voters and find it hard to believe that
> the administering of an oath is a big reason "young people" are not
> registering. In my discussions with young people, including my two
> children, I have found ignorance to be the problem.
>Deb, other items not mentioned include: 1) any changes to the checklist
>posting requirement should the same day voter registration be adopted, 2)
>how the BCA checklist update meetings fit into the new same day voter
>registration scheme?, 3) Does same day voter registration also allow us
>to remove individuals - some type of reconciliation for the checklist?, 4)
>How does this change effect my municipal budget - will I have to add staff
>to accommodate - will it take longer for me to do my reporting, etc.
> Deb, you mentioned in your original email that a committee had been
> meeting to discuss these issues. Are there committee minutes somewhere
> that I could read.
> Ultimately, as Town Clerk, I am accountable for the conduct of
> elections. I know that same day voter registration is
> inevitable. However, there are just to many unanswered questions at this
> time for me to support this issue.
> If you would like to talk more, or if I can be of additional service
> feel free to let me know.
>Barre Town Clerk-Treasurer
>802-479-9391 (Fax) 802-479-9332
>email: [log in to unmask]
> Original memo from Deb Markowitz:
> >>> [log in to unmask] 01/26/05 11:49AM >>>
>I would love to talk to clerks who have concerns about same day
>voter registration - or any other of the office's legislative
>proposal (which you will be able to view on our Elections
>website later today.)
>The office's legislative proposals were developed with input
>from many clerks around the state (the office has a clerk's
>advisory committee which includes clerks from large and small
>communites all around the state). The growing feeling is that
>same day registration will let us address election day problems
>with motor voter law. The feeling is that same day registration
>will allow clerks to skip the time consuming and upsetting
>problems that occur when voters come to the polls and find that
>their name is not on the checklist.
>Because we will have in place a statewide voter checklist there
>will no longer be a real risk of voter fraud because a person who
>registers and votes in two places will be caught -- and it is a
>felony offense! (Remember - right now a person could be
>voting in more than one place and we would never know it!)
>What is contemplated is that a person who wishes to register and
>vote on the same day would be required to show ID - and then
>would be added to the checklist at the polls. After the election
>the clerk would give the Secretary of State's Office the names of
>voters who registered and voted on the same day and we would
>cross-check the name on the statewide checklist.
>With the statewide checklist coming on line next year - this is
>great timing. What I like about same day registration is that it
>will help clerks solve election day problems. I also think it
>would be a great addition to our law because the states that have
>it have the highest voter turnouts in the nation!
>I would love to hear your thoughts and concerns about this
>proposal or any of the others!
>Deborah L. Markowitz
>Secretary of State
>Vermont Secretary of State's Office
>26 Terrace Street
>Montpelier, Vermont 05609