Scott signs law granting municipalities Town Meeting Day flexibility

Published: 1/19/2021 10:28:10 PM
Modified: 1/19/2021 10:29:08 PM

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday signed into law new options for towns and cities to more safely hold Town Meeting Day votes as COVID-19 continues to threaten the state.

The measure, HB 48, allows municipalities to mail ballots to all registered voters or to delay in-person gatherings until later in the year.

With Town Meeting Day fast approaching — it is scheduled for March 2 — lawmakers fast-tracked the legislation when they convened earlier this month. It passed the Vermont House last Tuesday by a vote of 142-2; the Senate signed off two days later on a voice vote.

In a written statement issued Tuesday, Scott called on municipalities to avail themselves of the new options, arguing that Vermonters should not have to choose between participating in local democracy and protecting themselves from the coronavirus.

The new law builds on Vermont’s successful move to temporarily expand its vote-by-mail system during the November 2020 general election, though it does not require municipalities to mail ballots to voters.

Ahead of last fall’s election, the Secretary of State’s Office mailed a ballot to every registered voter in the state in order to cut down on in-person traffic at the polls. The change drove record turnout.

Lawmakers also recently secured $2 million to help municipalities cover the cost of mailing ballots.

Whether or not municipalities choose to mail ballots to all voters, they must still accommodate in-person voting on Town Meeting Day.

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