‘Everything gets counted’: Surge of absentee, early ballots contribute to voter turnout

Photo by Madeline Hughes
Shelburne had 2,250 voters turn out to the polls on Election Day.

Voter turnout in last week’s general election in Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne was higher than the state average.Voters chose incumbents over newcomers, but still turned out at high rates compared to midterm elections past.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into it behind the scenes,” said Judy Frazer, a Shelburne resident who volunteered at the polls.

Town Clerk Diana Vachon asked Frazer to help at the clerk’s counter in the days before the election because Vachon expected a strong turnout.

Vachon was right.

In Shelburne, 68 percent of registered voters participated in this year’s election. Over 2,000 ballots were cast early, and another 2,250 voters came to the polls on Election Day, Vachon said.

This year, 596 people registered to vote in Shelburne. Among those were 46 people who registered on Election Day; Vachon said about a quarter of those were first-time voters.

Despite the high interest, people moved through at a steady pace.

“The general mood was pretty happy. There were a few swells of people, but no one waited longer than a few minutes,” Vachon said. This year’s election had only about 550 fewer voters than the presidential election of 2016, and it was nine percent higher – by over 1,200 votes – than the 2014 midterm election, she said.

Of the 53 volunteers at the polls, 18 were new, Vachon noted. “Those people love to help keep democracy alive,” she added.

The days leading up to the election were busy in the town clerk’s office, Frazer said.

“We are hearing about voting integrity in other states, and they could learn a thing or two from Vermont,” she said. “I’m very impressed with the system, and people should know their vote is being counted.”

As people came into the town clerk’s office to vote early in the days leading up the election, ballots every day had to be counted and keyed in by Assistant Town Clerks Susan Moraska and Lisa Mann, Frazer explained. Then on Election Day, those votes were entered into the tabulator.

Frazer said that last Monday, the final day to early vote, “was a sea of faces” as more than 200 ballots were dropped off in person or received by mail. The scene was busy in the town clerk’s office as they processed the ballots and Vachon looked after last-minute logistics for Election Day.

“And everything gets counted,” Frazer reinforced.

Everyone’s an election worker

Vachon said many people work behind the scenes to make an election run smoothly. For example, Interim Town Manager Lee Krohn secured parking arrangements. Many people ran errands to get materials and food. Others helped set up the voting stations in the town gym. On Tuesday, Constable Bob Lake helped keep smooth the flow of traffic.

After the polls closed, Finance Director Peter Frankenberg helped Vachon compile and send out the results. That happened just after 11 p.m.

“I couldn’t do it without everyone’s help,” Vachon said.

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