T&G to hold special election Jan. 22; meeting set for Jan. 15


MANCHESTER — The Taconic and Green Regional School District will hold a special election on Tuesday, Jan. 22, to decide whether to amend an article dealing with the way votes are tallied in future elections.

The measure is asking voters for permission to count votes at the place they are cast and then have those totals sent to the school district clerk to be tallied for a total.

A special meeting has been warned in advance of the vote on Tuesday, Jan. 15 for the legal voters of the Taconic and Green Regional School District, consisting of the towns of Danby, Dorset, Landgrove, Londonderry, Manchester, Mount Tabor, Peru, Sunderland and Weston. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Jackie Parks Room at Manchester Elementary Middle School.

Currently, the votes cast have to be physically transported to the district clerk and then counted together. They were counted at Manchester Town Hall last year in the district's first budget vote.

But while the district wants the votes to be counted as one, it was simply a logistical nightmare to transport the ballots over long distances and get them counted in a secure and time-efficient manner.

"We had to have ballots delivered to a central location," said T&G superintendent Jackie Wilson. "It was really complicated. We're educators, we're not town clerks and we're not in the business of doing that."

The T&G board sought a solution through the Secretary of State and the Vermont Agency of Education. There is talk of legislation fixing the problem, but it wouldn't come soon enough for this year's Town Meeting Day votes.

What Wilson and the T&G board is asking voters to approve is an amendment to Article 10.6 of the Articles of Agreement to read: "Australian Ballot. The Union School District voters shall vote on election of directors, the budget and other public questions by Australian ballot with polling places provided in each member town. The municipal clerks of the member towns shall transmit to the union school district clerk the results of the vote upon completion of the counting. All matters voted shall be determined on the basis of the majority of the total votes cast."

The change is required because state law wasn't written to account for the large districts that have come into being under Act 46, Wilson said.

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"When the law was written for the co-mingling of votes for districts, it was written for when union high schools were formed," Wilson said. "The regulation was not intended for what happened in Act 46."

The T&G board wants votes within the district to be considered district-wide, not town-by-town.

The idea is that voters within the district are deciding business district-wide and the board doesn't want towns to be worried if one school is getting more money spent on it over another.

"The T&G board wanted the votes co-mingled," Wilson said. "We just felt it was important for the whole system. We've worked really hard to be one unit."

The best way to have the votes co-mingled is to change the Articles of Agreement, she said.

"We all came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to request a change in our articles to allow for the votes to be counted in the separate municipalities," Wilson said. 'It's the best solution we could come up with right now."

So, if approved by voters, town clerks in each town will count the ballots and then report the results to the district clerk by phone, email or some combination of the two.

"The town clerks will do it like they've always done it," Wilson said. "They'll funnel the results to Becky Nawrath, the district clerk."

Nawrath will then be responsible for reporting the total vote count to the Secretary of State.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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