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Statutory changes allow discussion of Australian ballot items at Town Meeting 2009

01/08/2009

By Kara Herlihy

Valley voters will find something new at Town Meeting this year: the ability to discuss Australian ballot items, something previously prohibited by law.

At a public hearing in Moretown this week, Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) director of public policy and advocacy Karen Horn discussed changes to state statutes that will affect voting on Town Meeting Day this year.

TWO CHANGES

According to VLCT, two changes were made to state statutes that affect Town Meeting voting procedure. The state legislature amended 17 V.S.A. 2640 (c) to "establish that public discussion of ballot issues and all other issues appearing in the warning, other than the election of candidates, shall be permitted at the annual meeting, regardless of the location of the polling place."

VLCT is in the process of informing Town Meeting moderators of this year's changes as to properly prepare them "for those discussions should they arise," according to VLCT.

According to Vermont Statutes online, townspeople may now discuss Australian ballot items on Town Meeting Day: "(c) Notwithstanding section 2508 of this title, public discussion of ballot issues and all other issues appearing in the warning, other than election of candidates, shall be permitted on that day at the annual meeting, regardless of the location of the polling place. (Added 1977, No. 269 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 1991, No. 118 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Feb. 26, 1992; 2007, No. 121 (Adj. Sess.), § 11.)"

FROM THE FLOOR

Moretown, Waitsfield and Warren all vote by Australian ballot, while Fayston nominates from the floor.

Vermont law requires local officials to be elected by paper ballot (unless they are elected by Australian ballot). Towns that elect officers at a floor meeting nominate candidates during the meeting, according to 17 V.S.A. §2660(c).

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