Brattleboro Write-In Voting Reminder

As a result of recent Town Charter changes, counting votes for write-in candidates on Tuesday’s ballot has changed. If a Brattleboro citizen wishes to be considered a write-in candidate for any town office (including town meeting member) that candidate must now declare his/her candidacy to the town clerk no later than 7:00 PM on election day.

Only write-in votes for declared candidates will be counted after the polls close. Providing they have garnered the most votes in the race, write-in candidates for town officers need a minimum of 30 votes to win, town meeting members need a minimum of 10 votes.

There are still several town meeting member positions available in each district. If interested, contact the Brattleboro Town Clerk’s office 251-8129 or for more information.

Brattleboro polling hours are 9:00 am to 7:00 pm in the BUHS gym on Fairground Road.


Annette L. Cappy

Brattleboro Town Clerk

230 Main Street, Suite 108

Brattleboro. VT, 05301

ph 802-251-8129

fax 802-257-2312

Comments | 19

  • Terrible

    This an awful rule that does nothing but make it harder for people to vote. As a voter, I feel my ability to vote for whomever I choose is being compromised. Brattleboro is the only place I know that potential candidates can decide if my vote is counted.

    This places a tremendous burden on a voter wishing to write in anyone they choose and have their vote counted.

    One would have to track down the person they want to vote for and convince them to register. What if the person I want to write in is unable to be found or cannot declare their candidacy for some reason, say, a family emergency takes them out of town.

    What if they refuse? This gives a candidate power over a voter’s ability to vote for whom they choose. It shouldn’t be up to others whether we can vote for them or not. It isn’t their decision as to whom I vote for.

    Pity those who try to vote in advance by absentee ballot. The absentee voter has no way of knowing in advance which votes will be counted or not, as the official list will only be known on Election Day.

    Lest anyone accuse me of being late to the scene on this… I went to the Charter Change committee meetings and pleaded with them not to make this change. Some saw my point, but decided to send it along anyway and see what others would say. No one said anything and it was adopted.

    The write-in vote is an important type of vote, and Brattleboro’s charter weakens it. As everyone who reads this site knows, write-in results list real people in town and provide a more accurate glimpse of the electorate.

    Repeal this, please.

    • absurd and disturbing

      …move us from Kafka to Ubu territory

    • I am truly stunned!

      “No one said anything and it was adopted.” – cgrotke

      No one said anything protesting a bad plan during a Brattleboro committee meeting and, consequently, a bad plan was adopted? So TOTALLY unlike Brattleboro – Said no one, anywhere, ever! 🙂

      • understanding differences

        I’d really like to get the rationale behind the change to this voting law.

        In the case of the skatepark the underlying reality is that the process was a long time in the works. At its core the change is meant to provide needed, healthy, physical outlets for youth in a park.

        The voter restriction makes no clear sense. It annuls the ability for someone to express their true voice through prescribed democratic means.

        And by this scenario an undisclosed candidate could organize and gather votes behind the scenes, never declaring their candidacy, and sign in at the last minute in time to claim victory – in cases of low voter turnout this could be feasible. [not a suggestion to SOPC btw]

        Could someone explain why the change was made?

    • Repeal it or this Voter is Done.

      That stinks and is unAmerican. Why bother voting if your vote isn’t even counted? I’m beginning to erode into the “Don’t Friggin’ Bother” camp. This may be the last election cycle I vote in. I have little faith in anything anymore and this latest squelching is entirely disheartening. I also told the Charter Committee what I thought, and was ignored.

    • write-in for Town Meeting Representative in District 3

      When I went to vote early on Friday, I was disturbed that, for the fifteen 3-year seats for District 3 there were only 10-11 printed candidates. I wrote myself in, and am now appealing to the community to write me in (don’t forget to fill in the oval to the right of the write-in slot).

      I’ve lived on Eliot Street right above Harmony Lot since September 2007, and have experienced many disturbing scenarios (2008-2009 was especially bad; it’s better but there are continuing challenges). District 3 is the smallest in town, but it covers downtown and cannot afford to be underrepresented.

      Many in and around Brattleboro recognize me by face as I’ve instructing and playing chess at Mocha Joe’s since early 2008.

      Thanks for your consideration.

      Holland Mills

  • what am i missing?

    This seems perfectly reasonable to me:

    Wouldn’t you want the write-in candidate to want the position?

    And shouldn’t the candidate make it known that they want the position?

    What would happen if there was an uncontested seat and a group of people organized and elected someone who had no interest in participating? That would awkward and useless.

    Seems like a very minimum threshold for write in candidacy without getting the ghost of Eddie Charla elected.

    Forgive me, what am i missing here?

    • Except...

      No disrespect intended to candidates, but it isn’t up to candidates who we vote for. It is no one’s business but our own. A vote should be counted regardless of their desires.

      We also shouldn’t have to have the added burden of tracking down the person we want to vote for and telling them our private (desired) vote in advance, and convincing them to register with the Town Clerk so that our vote will be counted.

      We should be reducing barriers to voting. This increases them and adds unnecessary burdens to voters.

      It creates the possibility that someone votes for one person in the morning, with the understanding that they sign up by day’s end, but loses that vote when the person fails or refuses to sign up. There is no way for a voter voting by absentee ballot to know who will be on the approved list ahead of time.

      There is a long tradition of protest voting in this country, where someone unhappy with the choices could vote for someone else and have their vote counted no matter what.

      This pretty clearly states that your vote won’t be counted if you don’t jump through hoops.

      We could do an hypothetical experiment. Eleven people could write me in as a Town Rep for D3, but I will not sign up to be a candidate. I will have gotten enough write in votes to be elected, but those votes won’t be counted. That’s 11 voters effectively disenfranchised, and one candidate deprived of legitimate votes.

    • missing part

      Is the point. The entire point of elections is to freely and democratically vote for whomever one chooses, whether elected or not, and that your vote count. It disturbs me that you didn’t get that.

    • easily disturbed?

      OK, I get that it completely devalues a vote, which is a problem, in theory.

      I’m still trying to figure out the value of electing someone that doesn’t want to be elected. (I’d be happy to write in Chris name for rep, if you actually want to be a rep?)

      But isn’t the value of a vote for mickey mouse worth nothing anyway?

      The point of the rule seems only to make sure the write-in candidate wants to be a candidate, not to take away your right.

      If you feel that strongly about it, effect the change back to the old way. It might just be a case of trying to eliminate the wasted effort of counting, tabulating and reporting countless votes for unelectable

      • practical but not fearless

        here’s a good example of a protest vote:

        darwin gets 4000 votes

        when elctions are subverted–by money, or manipulations, or restrictions- an expression of protest may not be utilitarian, but it is certainly not ‘worth nothing’.  as things are going it may be all we are left with


      • ah, coming along.

        No, not easily disturbed, to answer your snark.

        You’re almost getting it though. But you aren’t completely there yet.

        It’s not a “problem in theory”, it’s a problem in actuality.

        The value of protest votes, and the freedom to vote for whomever you want to vote for seems to elude you.

        The point of the rule does take away the right for a vote to be counted, whomever it’s cast for, Mickey Mouse or Chris Grotke.

        I tried to stop this from taking place and was ignored. “Effect the change back to the old way” is much easier said than done now.

  • new restriction

    During the 45+ years I’ve lived in & around Brattleboro, I have often been struck by the unusual (for VT) degree of contempt & distrust held by the town’s government for its citizens. In surrounding towns, that sort of situation seems relatively easy to correct. I don’t really see why it is so hard to correct in Brattleboro, but it does seem to be.

    I suppose that the purpose of this little abortion is to “discourage” voters from putting poll workers to the trouble of actually reading the ballots with any care before recording them without flat-out prohibiting write-ins. Weasely. Can you put a repeal article on the warning for your reps’ “town” meeting?

  • Town Clerk Says

    Annette Cappy writes:

    Facts behind the rationale of not counting write-in votes. This charter change was discussed at charter meetings on several occasions. It was discussed at the special town meeting for charter changes and approved.

    It was not instituted because ballot counters on election day were tired of counting the hundreds of votes for one’s spouse, infant child, fictitious character, favorite movie star, literary writer, or ‘none of the above’. Prior to the change, if a name was determined to be fictitious, it was never counted, anyway – state law.

    Voters are still able to vote for anyone they chose.  However, if the person they are voting for is not interested in the job, they won’t be brought into the spotlight and made newsworthy by refusing.

    Those who decide last minute to become write-in candidates have until 7 pm on election day to declare. It is very simple. It is simply letting the clerk know that he/she want votes for them to be recognized. Under the new charter, write-ins now actually have a better chance to be elected. In the past it was often impossible for a write-in candidate to win because voters might use several variations of a name and counters were not able to discern that all those variations might be the same person. Example: Lucinda Jones who also goes by the nickname Cindy. Votes might come in for Lucinda Jones, L Jones, Cindy Jones, C Jones, Cyn Jones, Lucy Jones. These votes have been counted as votes for 6 different people because the counters did not know the candidate or the alternate names that could be associated with it. Counters now are given the names of those interested in being elected and will be on the lookout for that name and variations of it.

    Also, take the case of a few years ago. A person won the position of town meeting member as a write-in candidate. When all the votes were tallied and we found the name on the voter checklist, it was discovered that there were 2 persons in the same household with the same name.  Who was the winner?  By declaring ,it is clear who it is that wants the position.

    The new process was not instituted to keep candidacy a secret.  It is public record and also up to the candidate to spread the word that they would like to be elected.  As to the question of someone waiting until 6:59 pm to declare their candidacy, and sneak in a win, it could have happened pre-declaration.

    I hope voters will realize that this change was not to limit voter’s choices. Far from it. You can still vote for anyone you wish. It was written with purpose of helping to get a write-in candidate elected. If someone truly wishes to serve, being able to identify votes for him/her is in any candidate’s favor.

    Another note on write-ins: To be elected to a town office, the voter with the highest number of votes wins. However, a minimum of 30 votes is necessary for town meeting member – 10 votes.

    If you have questions about elections or write-in votes, please feel free to contact the town clerk’s office 251-8129

    Annette L. Cappy

    Brattleboro Town Clerk

    230 Main Street, Suite 108

    Brattleboro. VT, 05301

    ph 802-251-8129

    fax 802-257-2312

    • Rationale behind the change to this voting law

      I was a member of the committee formed to address changes to our charter, as required by State law.
      Our meetings were always open to the public. However, it was an unusual event for any member of the public to attend, except for Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette Cappy and her trusty sidekick Jane Fletcher, who attended many meetings and provided much useful information.
      Annette and Jane made the suggestions about write-in voting, and did a good job of explaining the rationale. We listened, discussed and voted.
      I’m glad Annette chose to respond (above). She did a much better job than I could have.
      It’s not impossible that a groundswell might arise concerning a candidate that’s not on the ballot. However, it’s highly unlikely the candidate would not be aware of this event before the polls closed on Election Day. If a Brattleboro citizen wishes to be considered a write-in candidate for any town office that candidate must now declare his/her candidacy to the town clerk no later than 7:00 PM. No petitions, no signatures, nothing but a phone call. It is very simple. It is simply letting the clerk know that he/she want votes for them to be recognized.
      The point of the rule is to make sure the write-in candidate wants to be a candidate, not to take away your rights.

      • Number?

        Where/what number would the candidate call?

        • Where/what number would the candidate call?

          If you have questions about elections or write-in votes, please feel free to contact the town clerk’s office 251-8129

          • Is there a problem?

            In asking what the number is on this forum where it was said the candidate should call by 7 on Tuesday? And why are you speaking for Annette?

  • Workable Solutions AND Preserving Openness

    Some lingering thoughts…

    In an ideal world, I’d like to think every vote would count. Each citizen–and we’re not even discussing laws of who is permitted to vote– another bombshell– should be able to go into the booth (why is there a booth anyway if not for allowing people to express their freedom without undue scrutiny?) and signal their personal choice.

    That choice may be a pragmatic one, a party line pick, or it may be a symbolic one. My opinion is that an election is one time when such freedom is celebrated. My alarm was tripped reading of changes to the charter in a week where Supreme Court Justice Scalia pontificated about his white pride, and aimed to gut the Voting Rights Act, a fifty year old civil rights triumph that prevents discrimination.

    Add widespread voter disenfranchisement, and venal laws like Citizens United- it seems overall we are not striving to make the world more open, more egalitarian. Rather, the “public arena” has come to resemble a gift basket for the pickings of special interests.

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