Early Voting For August Primary Begins

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(Host) Voting for the 2010 Primary Election has now begun in Vermont.

But as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, there have been some initial glitches in a number of communities.

(Kinzel) When lawmakers this winter changed the state’s election laws to comply with federal regulations concerning overseas ballots, they also changed the dates for Early Voting.

Under the new law, voters are allowed to cast an early ballot 45 days before the election -previously it was 30 days. That means the starting date for voting in the Primary is Monday July 12th.

But there was a snafu – the company printing the ballots used the wrong size paper for the ballots that were delivered to Chittenden County and some other communities didn’t receive their ballots until lunchtime on Monday, causing town clerks to turn some voters away in the morning.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says the printing company rushed the new ballots out at their own expense and that Early Voting is now operating smoothly.

(Markowitz ) "They sent the ballots back out. It reached all of the communities except Burlington, I believe, by Friday. And of course there’s no delivery of ballots over the weekend because the office is closed and Burlington‘s ballots arrived today I believe at 11 o’clock. So we’re on target."

(Kinzel) Markowitz is a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  The campaigns of some of her opponents suggested that the incident shows that Markowitz is not an effective administrator.  Markowitz says the situation shows just the opposite to be true.

(Markowitz )"We discovered that a printer printed the ballots that were inconsistent with the agreement and couldn’t be read by our optical scan machines and we immediately had it fixed. Ballots arrived in town offices as required by law and in a convenient time for voters. Nobody will miss any opportunity to vote because ballots got there at 11 o’clock today."

(Kinzel) Markowitz says she’s also surprised that town clerks in some of the affected communities didn’t offer early voters some other options:          

(Markowitz) "It would have been better if the clerks had offered them a large ballot to vote on and I’m not sure what the clerks in those communities were thinking, but there’s 45 days for voting. The ballots are there. They can come back and vote a ballot and they could have also asked the clerk to simply pop it in the mail at the end of the day. They’d have gotten it tomorrow and been able to turn it around." 

(Kinzel) Early Voting has become very popular in Vermont over the past few elections.  Analysts believe that 30 percent of all Primary ballots this year will be cast using this system.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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