By Rep. Joan Lenes
The gavel fell on the 2015 Legislative session late Saturday night, May 16. It had been a long week; one filled with conversations among House and Senate committee members, leadership, and the administration. The committees of conference were weaving together the best parts of each bodies’ versions of the health care bill, the budget, and the revenue bill and coming to agreement. Along with a dynamic economic development bill, these were the last pieces of legislation passed by both bodies this session. They are on the way to the Governor for his signing.
Over the next two weeks, Kate Webb and I will bring to you a thorough end of session report, summing up some key legislation. For this week, I am going to go over Election Day Registration, S.29.
Election Day Registration (EDR), sometimes referred to as same day voter registration, eliminates our current voter registration deadline so that eligible citizens can register to vote at their polling place on the day of an election, and then vote in that election. By removing barriers to voting, we strengthen our democracy and bring the voice of everyday Vermonters back into our collective decision-making. In 2014, Vermont ranked 27th in voter turnout. In 2012, we ranked 30th. Shelburne normally has a higher than average turnout rate compared to the entire state. The results of our last gubernatorial election underscore the importance of strong voter participation.
Election Day Registration is a time-tested and proven “pro-voter” reform measure. States who have enacted EDR—including the nine states and the District of Columbia who participated in EDR during the 2012 Presidential Elections—stand as a testament to its benefits. Along with other states that have enacted similar laws since 2012, early adopters have experienced an easing of problems at the polls, while maintaining the integrity of the vote. At times our town clerks are doing this already. A voter comes to vote thinking they have registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles, only to find their paper work has not come through. Most town clerks go ahead and register them then. S.29 will offer consistent and clear guidelines.
In response to concerns about implementation of EDR during a presidential election, the law will not take effect until 2017. The Secretary of State’s Office will work with our local town clerks addressing their concerns on how they will implement the new law in a seamless manner. The Secretary of State will report back to the legislature in January 2016 with any recommendations or concerns.
This past Tuesday was my last “morning coffee” at Brueggers Bagel until next January. I appreciate all who have come by with concerns or just to check in and say hello. I thank the folks at Bruegger’s for their hospitality in letting us gather there. Conversations are always interesting and informative for me and I hope helpful. Through the off session, I am available if you have questions or concerns. I’m happy to arrange a time to meet. You can reach me at (802) 999-9363 or firstname.lastname@example.org.