For months now candidates have used every platform available — print, airwaves, social media, door-to-door — to let us know where they stand on the issues. For many citizens, the decision on who should best serve them was decided long ago; others remain undecided, even now, the day before the election.
As unpalatable and dull as campaigns can sometimes feel — at any level — they are necessary and educational. Occasionally, sparks fly to make the process more interesting, but that is often theatrics and spin at work. All of that hard, repetitive work comes down to who is best aligned with your ideology, who do you respect and trust and, ultimately, who do you like.
Your vote is invaluable. It is both an affirmation and a message.
Every high school civics teacher in the country will tell you as a teenager that it is your constitutional right to cast a vote beginning at age 18, and that it is your duty, as engaged citizens, to exercise that right in order to shape the decisions for now and the future. It is a right we fought hard to have; now we must maintain it.
In Vermont alone, we hold a lot of sway.
According to the Secretary of State’s elections guide, as of May 10, there were 443,991 registered voters in the state. Invariably that number has gone up in recent months — as is usually the case in the weeks leading up to a national election. Across Vermont, 138 towns still use hand-counted paper ballots; 108 towns and cities use paper ballots that are counted using AccuVote optical scan tabulators, according to the guide.
If you voted by absentee ballot (about 20.7 percent of Vermont voters did so in the 2010 election), the ballots must be received by the close of the polls on Nov. 6 in order to be counted. (Any voter could have voted in Vermont by absentee ballot 45 days prior to Election Day.)
Most Vermonters will be heading to the polls tomorrow.
A few things to keep in mind before you head out the door:
Know where your polling place is before you head out. (And be sure it is open. Polls have to be open by 10 a.m. though most are open earlier; all polls close at 7 p.m.) If there is any doubt where or when you should vote in your town or city, there is a complete list on the Secretary of State’s website, www.sec.state.vt.us, or you can call your town clerk.
There can be some Election Day problems on occasion. For example, if a voter’s name has been taken off the checklist and the voter shows up to vote, as long as the voter signs a statement saying he or she still lives in town, the voter’s name will be placed back on the checklist. Also, it is not uncommon for a voter to come to the polls and find that the registration form was not received by the town. When this happens, the voter should be offered an affidavit to sign before voting.
On Election Day, in the event of voting-related questions (process — not politics) the Secretary of State’s staff is available from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. to respond to (and resolve complaints about) the election.
Not everyone takes advantage of their right to vote, however. While voter turnout in Vermont is higher in presidential election years, nearly a third of the registered voters here have chosen not to vote in the last two national cycles. On off years, or non-presidential election years, between half and two thirds of registered voters have gone to the polls to vote. That number should be even higher.
Voting is a right many Americans take for granted; it is one right that truly defines our nation as a democracy. We must not be negligent with this responsibility because, as we have seen time and again, every vote counts.