The Scene: Presidential primary election, March 3 in Vermont.
Election official: “Which ballot do you want? Democratic or Republican?”
Vermont voter: “Why do I need to tell you which ballot I want?”
“Well, umm, it’s the law . . . .“
Yes, it is! As was enacted in 1979: “A person voting at the primary shall be required to ask for the ballot of the party in which the voter wishes to vote and an election official shall record the voter’s choice of ballot by marking the entrance checklist with a letter code, as designated by the Secretary of State, to indicate the voter’s party choice.”
The Vermont Secretary of State’s office gives the following history: In the 1970s, the national political parties pushed hard on Vermont to register its voters by party to identify/target voters and to be able to run closed primaries. Vermonters wanted to keep its open primary process and did not want to register with any one party.
The national parties threatened to take away Vermont’s delegates to the national convention; this would have effectively cut the state out of the presidential-candidate-selection process.
The compromise was this law, allowing the national parties to collect some data on what may be the party affiliation of Vermont voters every four years, but leave Vermont with “open primaries.”
“Freedom and Unity” is the Vermont motto. We kept our freedom to hold open primaries; now we need to be unified. We all need to exercise our right to vote.
• Town Meeting and presidential primary: Tuesday, March 3.
• Voting will be held at the American Legion, 32 Linden St.
• Riding the Current (bus) will be free on March 3.
• Polling hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Early voting for the presidential primary started Jan. 20.
• Early voting for Town Meeting starts Wednesday, Feb. 12 at the Town Clerk’s office, Municipal Center (230 Main St.) between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and Saturday, Feb. 29, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Robert A. Oeser
The writer is a justice of the peace and a member of the Board of Civil Authority.