Vermont election officials say they’re ready for heavy turnout

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(Host) State election officials say they’re ready for what’s expected to be a heavy turnout of voters on Election Day.

And this year, a large majority of Vermont ballots will be tabulated by optical scan machines.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) State and local officials are bracing for a very busy Election Day even though roughly 25% of Vermont’s voters have already cast their ballots using the early voting system.

This year, town clerks will be allowed to tabulate these early ballots during the course of the day – a procedure that’s designed to speed up the computation process.

In the last two presidential elections, roughly 70% of all registered voters in Vermont cast a ballot. This year officials believe the number could be even higher.

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Dalton says his office has made sure that no town will run out of ballots.

(Dalton) "I’m confident that all towns, all jurisdictions have enough ballots…so what you do is say how big is the check list then we ensure that every municipality has the ballots for 100% of the people on the checklist plus…because it’s a presidential year I think we’ve added 350 additional ballots to every jurisdiction."

There are no touch screen computer voting systems in Vermont. Every voter will fill out a paper ballot and many voters will then have their ballot tabulated by an optical scan machine.

103 towns now use these machines – including most of the more populated communities in the state.

Some groups have raised concerns that these machines could be manipulated to produce fraudulent election results.

Dalton says that’s very unlikely because the machines are tested before the election and because a number of towns are chosen at random for a post election audit:

(Dalton) "It’s a pre-testing it’s a pre audit so that every local official needs to mark some ballots and run them through to make that the machine works properly then post election…the random audits are done drawing some towns out of a hat and also giving the Secretary the discretion to say well I heard something may have been a little strange in this town let’s audit there as well."

Under state law, all polling places must remain open until 7 p.m. and anyone in line by that time will be allowed to vote but individual towns can determine when to open their polls. In most towns, the polls open at 7 a.m., however there are some communities where the polls don’t open until 10 in the morning.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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