Special election requirements test Secretary of State’s office

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(Host) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says the process for tabulating votes for a proposed technical center in Chittenden County will be the most elaborate and complicated voting system ever used in the state of Vermont. Markowitz says it’s an issue that the Legislature needs to review in January.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports

(Kinzel) There are 26 towns in the special election district for the proposed technical center. Under a new state law, all the ballots must be co-mingled and counted together; that means there won’t be separate vote totals for the individual towns.

Markowitz is expecting as many as 80,000 ballots from these towns on November 2 and all the tech center ballots will need to be printed separately using optical scan technology. Markowitz says all the ballots will be taken to a designated election center in Williston where a group of special election clerks will tabulate the votes.

Because it would take an enormous amount of time to run 80,000 ballots through six optical scan machines, Markwoitz has arranged for sheriff patrols to transport batches of ballots from the individual towns to the special election center several times during the day. Markowitz says designing an effective vote tabulating system has been a challenge:

(Markowitz) “We have never had anything like this before and that’s why it’s been so much work to figure out how to meet the mandate of the co-mingling in a way that’s administratively feasible. You have to remember that a presidential election is the busiest election in a four-year cycle. So to overlay this more complicated regional election on top of it really has been a challenge for this office and for the clerks of Chittenden County.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz says she understands the intent of the new state law that requires the co-mingling of ballots in specially created election districts but she also believes that lawmakers need to review the practical impact of this new law:

(Markowitz) “Their objective was, by co-mingling the ballots you don’t pit town against town and you really do create a new district where the voters are speaking as individual voters, as opposed to individuals with different interests based on the town they live in. And I think that’s a fine goal but you really have to take a look at what does this mean to the folks who are actually conducting the election.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz says the basic costs and expenses of setting up this special vote tabulation process will be paid for by the 26 towns that constitute the new district.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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