Towns plan for primary election changes
Towns throughout the region are adjusting their procedures for the Aug. 11 primary, with some localities preparing to offer forms of drive-up voting to help mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
To help reduce traffic at polling places on primary day, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos and town clerks have encouraged Vermonters to request early ballots and take advantage of the state's no-excuse absentee voting by mail option. Condos' office is mailing registered voters postcards with instructions on how to obtain early ballots, which can be requested from town clerks directly and through the state's "My Voter Page" at mvp.vermont.gov.
Below are details on how towns in the region are planning to accommodate voters on Aug. 11 who do not opt for the early voting option.
In Arlington, primary day voting will be held at the American Legion Post 69 at 54 Legion Road, according to Town Clerk Robin Wilcox.
The site will feature a drive-through area for absentee ballot drop-offs and indoor, in-person voting, Wilcox wrote in an email. The hall is handicapped accessible and will have a separate entrance and exit.
Weather permitting, Dorset will accommodate drive-up voting at the Dorset Town Offices, located at 112 Mad Tom Road, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Town Clerk Sandra Pinsonault.
Voters will enter the property on the building's west side, where they will receive a ballot. After marking their ballot in their vehicles, they will deposit the ballot as they exit on the building's east side.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The Twitchell Building, located at 100 Old School Street in South Londonderry, according to a warning posted on the town's website.
"We are preparing for a drive through polling place," Town Clerk Kelly Pajala wrote in an email.
The town's board of Civil Authority voted last week to move its primary election from its customary location — town hall — to Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, more commonly known as the Rec Park, to accommodate drive-by voting.
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
According to Manchester Town Clerk Anita Sheldon, voters will drive into the park and obtain a ballot at the Rec Park's Park House. They will then park their vehicles in the lot near Applejack Stadium, complete their ballots, then deposit them on their way out of the parking lot. Voters would not need to leave their vehicles.
The board had also considered Manchester Elementary Middle School, the public safety building and Riley Rink but ruled each location out for one reason or another.
Peru residents voting in the primary Aug. 11 will be offered "window service" at Peru Town Hall, according to Town Clerk Jennie Freeman.
"We have a place where people can walk along the side of the building to check in and out and collect ballots through the windows," Freeman wrote in an email. "They will vote outside and then deposit into ballot boxes. The boxes will be outside with one poll worker there."
"We can handle this plan if the weather is not perfect with a sturdy tent," she said. "If the weather is truly horrible, we will hold the voting inside. The space we have inside allows for enough room to manage safely."
If voting is held inside, administrators "will carefully manage the number of voters who enter the building according to space limitations," Freeman said.
"Due to the fact that the Rupert Town Office building has the means to allow voters to enter in one door from the parking lot, vote, and then exit out through a different door to the parking area, I think that is how the primary election will be handled," Rupert Town Clerk Andrea Lenhardt wrote in an email on Tuesday, adding that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines will be followed and voters will be asked to wear masks inside the building.
"We are strongly advising voters to fill out the absentee request postcards that they received in the mail and to vote absentee instead of coming to the polls," Lenhardt wrote. "A Rupert Board of Civil Authority meeting will be held soon to go over these procedures."
Polls at the Sunderland Municipal Building will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m for in-person voting, according to the town website.
The state of Vermont has provided the town with a kit for poll workers that includes disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves and masks, Assistant Clerk Susan Whitney wrote in an email on Tuesday. "Also," she added, "there seems to be a good response to the postcards [the state] sent out to encourage absentee voting."
Whitney wrote that she and Town Clerk Rose Keough had not yet had an opportunity to discuss "what exactly our procedures will be" for the primary because of vacations but that she assumes "next week we will have a better idea of what adjustments may be necessary."
Drive-thru voting will be held at The Mountain School at Winhall from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Town Clerk Beth Grant. The school is located at 9 School Road, across from Town Hall.
Voters are encouraged to wear a mask at the ballot area and to bring their own pen or pencil, according to Grant. Poll workers will be wearing personal protective equipment.
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