The basic answer to the question you are raising is that you have to simply do your best in this situation to have the ballots prepared and sent to voters who request an absentee ballot as soon as possible – as far in advance of the vote as you can. Due to the statutorily shortened time frame for votes on a budget after it has been rejected, it is impossible to comply with the standard absentee ballot requirements (that they be prepared no less than 20 days before the election and sent to the voter upon request.)
There is support in the statutes for this approach. 16 V.S.A. §711e governs the process for union school districts that vote their budget by Australian ballot. Subsection (a) makes it clear that union school district budget votes by Australian ballot should follow the procedures set out in 17 V.S.A. §2680. Both of these statutes state that “[i]f the proposed budget is rejected . . . the date of the public informational meeting shall be at least five days following the public notice. [and] The date of the vote shall be at least seven days following the public notice.” So it is clear from both of these statutes that there is a reduced warning time for a vote on a budget after it has been rejected – 7 days instead of the standard 30. The reason for this is that the legislature saw a need for municipal budgets to be passed as soon as possible, and waiting thirty days to have a budget on the books was too long.
Subsection (e) of 16 V.S.A. §711e states that “[u]nless clearly inconsistent, the provisions of 17 V.S.A. chapter 55 [“Local Elections”] shall apply to actions taken under this section.” This means that, unless it is clearly inconsistent, the standard local election laws apply to these union school district budget votes. Here, the provision of the election laws (Chap. 55) that requires ballots to be prepared no less than 20 days before the election is clearly inconsistent with the provision allowing for a meeting to be warned for no less than 7 days. Since it is clearly inconsistent, and the absentee rules in Title 17 cannot possibly be applied, you are left to comply as closely as you possibly can with those laws. In this case that means, as I stated at the beginning, you simply have to do your best to have the ballots prepared and available for absentee and early voters as soon as possible.
I have reviewed your question and my response with the Agency of Education and they agree with this interpretation.
Please always feel free to contact me directly with your questions.
Office of the Secretary of State
FAX: (802) 828-5171
Municipal Government Discussion Network [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Roberta Dana
Sent: Monday, March 11, 2013 7:39 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: School budget revote
On Town meeting day, our union district school budget was not passed (Australian ballot).
The school board is planning on making final decisions on a new budget at a school board meeting to be held on March 14th.
They will need to print ballots and deliver them to the three town clerks in the district.
They are planning on having the school budget revote on March 27th which is less than two weeks from their final budget decision meeting meaning that in my estimation, there will not be enough time allowed for the clerks to accept requests for absentee ballots, mail out absentee ballots and then for the registered voters to get their ballots returned to the town office by the end of voting day. Also, we do have a situation where a registered voter is leaving the country on vacation more than likely before the ballots are ready meaning that this voter will NOT get a chance to vote on this issue.
Is this just a "tough luck" voter or is this a legal issue?
IMHO, the vote is being rushed and there could very well be more voters out there that will not be able to vote due to the constricted timing!
Any opinions are welcome!
Groton Town Treasurer
& Collector of Current Taxes
1476 Scott Hwy
Groton, VT 05046
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