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