Democracy Rolls On: Vt. Primary Day Sees ‘Drive-Thru Voting' in Some Communities

The approach minimized contact voters had with each other or with poll workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Because of COVID-19, some Vermont polling places got creative to make sure voters could make their voices heard safely in Tuesday's primary elections.

"Making history," Ashleigh Ricciarelli of Barre City said as she experienced a whole new kind of voting during the pandemic.

For Vermont's primary elections, Barre's polling place was "drive-thru."

The city opened up big garage doors at a municipal arena for masked voters to pull in, pick up their ballots and park where hockey players clash in colder weather.

They then popped their picks into the tabulator and simply drove off, having very little contact with others.

"Since the voters stay in their cars, they're not touching voting booths," Barre City Clerk Carol Dawes explained. "We don't have to sterilize voting booths every time a voter goes through."

"I did feel safe and healthy," Ricciarelli said. "I was a little confused, but we all worked together and figured it out, so it's all good."

According to a list of polling places published on the website of Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, at least 18 Vermont communities voted in a drive-thru format Tuesday.

The true number very well could be higher, though, because some towns did not provide descriptions on that website of how they were conducting their primary day voting.

Duxbury was another drive-thru voting community.

"It seemed to be the easiest and cleanest and safest option for everybody," Duxbury Town Clerk Maureen Harvey said. "Other than the heat, everything's going well. And actually, we got a breeze, so we lucked out a little bit."

Duxbury voters were borrowing clipboards to fill in their candidates' bubbles — with anything shared then getting a disinfecting bath before the next person drove up.

In Huntington, Town Clerk Heidi Racht said some locals just love going to the polls in-person, even though mail-in balloting was available.

Those in-person Huntington voters had an option: to drive through or to vote in booths set up outdoors, under a tent, with volunteers wiping down surfaces.

"We thought it would encourage people to come to the polls who hadn't voted [by mail] if we could do it outside," Racht told NECN and NBC10 Boston, noting that hand sanitizer was also provided. "We thought it would be fun and different."

Back in Barre, where traditional voting was also available, City Clerk Dawes said she wanted to make sure as many people as possible felt comfortable participating in the primary during this strange summer.

Democracy rolled on, thanks in part to drive-thru voting.

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