The small Vermont community most famous as the birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge abruptly canceled its Australian ballot vote on Tuesday’s Town Meeting Day, and is now readying for a do-over.
“This was an honest mistake,” said Russ Tonkin of the Plymouth Select Board. “And we will make it right.”
Tonkin said about 90 of Plymouth's nearly 500 registered voters had cast their ballots in the local election when the select board shut down the process midday, voiding those votes.
“We didn't want to waste anybody else's time,” Tonkin added.
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Tonkin said the polling place needed volunteers to help check people in and out of the facility during the voting. A candidate for select board and someone up for town lister ended up with those jobs, he said.
“Finding people to work at the polls in a small town is difficult,” Tonkin observed.
However, under Vermont election rules, those candidates were not allowed to also serve as poll workers while their names were on the ballot.
According to state statute, candidates may not serve as an election official unless they are the only candidate for the office, or unless the office is for certain positions, such as town moderator, town clerk, or justice of the peace.
“In my six years as secretary of state, this is the first time we've heard this one,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos told necn.
Condos said he did not tell the community it had to stop the election, but his office did warn Plymouth that the misstep could leave the town at risk of legal challenges to the vote results.
“I think it was just strictly an error of judgment,” Condos said. “Someone didn't understand the law and thought they were doing the right thing.”
Because a critical school district consolidation vote was affected, Plymouth's leaders decided it was best to not risk any court delays and just hold a take-two on the whole thing, with different people staffing the polling place next time.
While the school vote and the election of town officials were affected, a voice vote that happened at a public meeting Monday on other town business was not affected, Tonkin said.
“They, I’m sure, had no intention of trying to change the results of the election,” Tonkin said of the candidates who served as poll workers. “I know both of the people personally and they’re great people. We’re glad to have people interested in running for a position in the town, because that’s difficult sometimes in a small town to get people who are really interested.”
It appears that a revote will happen sometime in April, because the town has to give at least a 30-day heads-up to voters.
Tonkin said residents can expect mailers letting them know about the do-over. The town website will also contain information on the new election once it is announced, Tonkin said.