December 29, 2014


Report from CAO Bob Rusten, Burlington.   Dec 15, 2014.

Candidates have contacted the City expressing concern about the City’s position that poll watchers had to be formally registered as a representative of a candidate prior to their be allowed to function in that role. Section 2564 of Title 17, Election Law states in pertinent part the following:

a) Each organized political party, each candidate on the ballot not representing an organized political party, and each committee supporting or opposing any public question on the ballot shall have the right to have not more than two representatives outside the guardrail for the purpose of observing the voting process and challenging the right of any person to vote. In no event shall such representatives be permitted to interfere with the orderly conduct of the election, and the presiding officer shall have authority to impose reasonable rules for the preservation of order. However, in all cases the representatives shall have the right to hear or see the name of a person seeking to vote, and they shall have the right to make an immediate challenge to a person's right to vote.

It is the responsibility of the Ward Clerk to maintain order at the polls. The City’s practice of having poll watchers formally registered as a candidate’s representative, prior to their serving in the statutory capacity, was to help maintain order and ensure a person was actually a representative for a candidate.

Based on our legal research, we find that there is no statutory requirement that a poll watcher formally register at any time, and therefore we will no longer require any form of registration. In addition, our legal research indicates that there is no prohibition as to the number of people who may observe an election from outside of the “guardrail”.

November 9, 2014

Observers and Side-Checkers Barred from Polls

A last minute ruling by Burlington City Clerk caught many people by surprise on Election Day, and blocked observers from polls in the North End and elsewhere in the city. Election law specifies that side-checkers must be accommodated, and nowhere does it say people can't observe.  Traditionally members of the non-partisan League of Women Voters have observed voting procedures in Vermont and across the country.

A member of the League of Women Voters has filed an on-the-record hearing request with the Secretary of State, and a Ward 7 candidate has filed a complaint with Burlington's Board of Civil Authority (aka City Council).

~League of Women Voters:   LWV interests are described here: -  "the election observer program is a statewide volunteer observer corps that protects voters on Election Day and provides valuable evidence for the League’s nationwide advocacy for clean, accessible elections."  
Hearing request:  If a law doesn't specifically exclude something, it is not excluded. This is an important foundation for maintaining access and transparency in government affairs.  Elected Ward Clerks have authority at the polls to allow orderly observation by, for example, the League of Women Voters, and have traditionally done so. Burlington City Clerk exceeded his authority in blocking members of the League of Women Voters,  and citizens generally, from observing voting procedures at the polls. 
~Candidate [Michael Ly, District 6.1 legislative candidate]: Request hearing with Board of Civil Authority to make voters aware of three major issues that occurred during this election cycle [Nov. 4, 2014] that could have affected the results of the race and the integrity of the election:
  • Bad Ballots: The Burlington Clerk’s office left five Justice of the Peace candidates off the original ballots, affecting over 400 voters and specifically over 90 voters in District 6-1. Fortunately, the error was caught early enough by the Burlington Republican Committee so that the Clerk’s office could correct the error and resend the ballots to affected voters. Unfortunately, this mistake error taxpayers $10,000. 
  • Voter District Error: Less than two weeks before the general election, 87 voters were notified that they were switched from District 6-1 to 6-2, removing them from my race. These voters had voted in District 6-1 in 2012 as well as the 2014 Primary Election, but they should have been voting in District 6-2 according to the redistricting boundaries set a few years ago. The Burlington Clerk’s office chose not to notify the candidates nor the respective political parties of this change. Kurt and I only found out about this change because we happened to run into one of the voters who showed us the letter they had received. Transparency is of utmost importance in any election and notifying the candidates and parties could have also saved precious campaign time and money. 
  • Side checkers: As is customary with many campaigns, it is common for a candidate or political party to have their own volunteers stand at the polling places to track which voters have showed up to the polls (aka Side Checkers). I contacted the Ward Clerks for both polling stations in my District and let them know the names of the volunteers that would be showing up for me. I asked specifically if there was anyone else I needed to contact and was told specifically that was all I had to do. On Election Day, my volunteers were asked to leave the polling station because I had not submitted their names to the Burlington Clerk’s office who required a list of volunteer names be submitted in person. I was never informed that this was a requirement and my side checkers had never experienced this as an issue before in previous elections.
Because candidates and voters deserve to have fair and transparent elections, I am urging the City Council to request a formal review of the Burlington City Clerk’s election practices. The mistakes above may have provided me grounds to contest this race, but I have chosen not to do that. I care more about a fair and transparent election process than contesting this race into a possible court decision or special election.

April 11, 2014

8 Wards, 4 Districts. New Ward 8

A new Ward 8 was created in the area of the city where growth has occurred, mainly around the university. Campus housing expanded, and university enrollment increased, while elsewhere in the city population stayed measurably the same.

Each ward in the city has a Neighborhood Planning Assembly (NPA), and Ward 8 will have one also. Members of stakeholder groups and residents who live in the new Ward 8 will be gathering to elect an interim steering committee for their NPA on May 13. They will discuss issues governed in by-laws, and plan for the first official Ward 8 NPA meeting in September.

Preserving small ward democracy in Burlington maintains door2door campaigning that energizes civic participation in the city. It strengthens the tradition of multi-party representation on City Council, and brings a diversity of opinion to the tables of local government.

Ward 8 is the little ORANGE salamander.

May 24, 2013

Redistricting changes ward boundaries, residents advocate for small wards. Stay tuned for results...

Bipartisan Voting Commission Can Bring Elections into 21st Century

President Barack Obama announced the members of his bipartisan voting commission this week. Headed up by Robert Bauer and Benjamin Ginsburg, the commission will spotlight the urgent need to improve our election system. “We urge the commission to recommend bold solutions to modernize voting,” Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser told MSNBC. “America needs to upgrade how we register voters, when we vote, and how we manage polling places.”  Read more at theHuffington Post and Associated Press.

October 21, 2012

Judge nullifies voter registration deadline

In the last election in Burlington, a woman came to vote who had registered after the deadline. She was not allowed to vote. She was informed of her right to appeal to a judge. The judge allowed her to vote. Does this mean voter registration deadlines are not enforceable? People who register close to the deadline should bring their registration papers to the polls because their names will not be on the checklist.

October 16, 2012


Greg Roy,Ward 4:

During the [City Council Mtg 10-15-12] Cslr. Bryan Aubin left the table to inquire of me as to whether I had heard anything in the way of a response to the letter I sent concerning my friends experience when utilizing the Early Voting option at City Hall. I told him [the letter was] forwarded it to a member of the Board of Registration of Voters (Linda Chagnon, by name), and that [Lea Terhune] had previously submitted virtually identical concerns during earlier voting cycles and that the same weaknesses were still being observed.
 I sent the letter to [Lea], to my [Ward 4] City Councilors, a Ward 7 Councilor(R) Paul Decelles, an (I), Karen Paul of Ward 6, and the Mayor. I received a written response from [Lea]... That's it, just [Lea]. Tonight's inquiry by Bryan is the only proof I have that anyone else received it.
 [Lea] knows more about the history of this problem! ... in the coming days, could [Lea] bring Bryan up-to-speed on the problems that [she has] encountered or have heard about? I've brought this up with the Secretary of State already, and although he would definitely contact them and refresh their memories as to the proper handling of ballots, he also informed me that in the end he had very little power to enforce anything. If we don't enforce transparency, we don't get transparency... 

Ed. Note: Transparency? HOW ABOUT ENFORCING ELECTION LAWS? Do officials charged with implementing the law even know the law? Burlington's Board of Registration of Voters does not follow the law, Burlington's City Clerk doesn't, and the Sec of State's Office doesn't. The courts are no recourse -- the judge says "mistakes happen" and orders no remedial action (see Annette Smith story below).

City Hall Careless with Ballots

October 3, 2012

 Some friends of mine and myself had reason to travel to Albany, NY yesterday. They had gone to City Hall the day before to vote early, and while driving down I-87 it came up in conversation. This was the account that they imparted to me of their experience... 
 When they arrived at the city clerks office there was a gentleman talking, from the public side, to one of the desk clerks, so they went to the other of the two windows, which was also open and available. They got checked off, received their ballots, and took them over to the counter to fill out. As they were marking the ballots, one of them noticed that the gentleman that had been talking to the desk clerk had made his way over to them and was trying to see who they were voting for. My friend noticed him peering at her ballot and curled it over to deny him the ability to intrude further. He realized that he had been discovered, and quickly diverted his eyes to the voting information and blank ballots posted on the wall, in a vain attempt to make her think that the invasion of her right to a secret ballot was not his actual intent. He then went back to the same desk clerk that he had been talking to previously and continued with that discussion. When my friends had finished filling out their ballots they noticed that he had been watching them from the clerks counter, and told them (somewhat insistently) that they should submit them with the clerk that he had been talking with, even though the window of the clerk that they had received them from was free. When they complied with his suggestion (demand?), the clerk at that window took their ballots, and handed them off to someone that was just around the corner but not visible from their position; all they could see was a hand taking them. That was the last they saw of their ballots. 
 Their concern was that this intrusive gentleman was attempting to filter ballots submitted, and possibly had some influence over the particular clerk that he had insisted that they submit their ballots to. They never saw their ballots put into a locked ballot box. Were their ballots submitted to a proper voting receptacle?, or a paper shredder and then a trash receptacle based upon his personal bias!
 I asked them if they could describe him to me, and although I don't know every person working at City Hall, I felt that if I could identify the person I may be able to explain his position in the administration and calm their concerns as to whether he belonged there or not. They described him as 5'8" to 5'10", 35 to 40ish,average build, with dark wavy curls, and wearing glasses. This didn't strike a chord with me; does it bring anyone to your mind? Would there be an Inspector of Elections posted at the City Clerks office during the entirety of the available early voting period?
 It seems to me that Absentee and Early Votes should immediately be placed in a LOCKED voting box which is not accessible, but is always observable by the public, and to which the only key should be held by the person who will ultimately be responsible for verifying the outcome of the elections!
Greg Roy  (Ward 4)

September 30, 2012

Smith was a valid write-in vote - State statute clear

Letter to Editor, Burlington Free Press, Sept. 23, 2012 

It is strange, very strange, that an empty oval would suddenly gain the status of a hanging chad.
A hanging chad, we all remember from the election debacle of 2000, became a culprit in the disenfranchisement of hundreds of Florida voters. Chads were left hanging, and voters’ votes were left hanging. Uncounted. The course of American history hung along with them.
Some Vermont town clerks appear to have been flummoxed by the specter of the empty oval. There the empty oval remained, on Aug. 28, next to an unknown number of write-in votes for Annette Smith.
And, it appears, our Secretary of State’s Office, which is responsible for training our hard-working town clerks, did not provide the following, which I offer here for future and potential write-in candidates:
Vermont Statute §2586: Rules for Counting Ballots (e) In the case of “write-in” votes, the act of writing in the name of a candidate, or pasting a label containing a candidate’s name upon the ballot, without other indications of the voter’s intent, shall constitute a vote for that candidate, even though no cross is placed after such name. The election officials counting ballots and tallying results must list every person who receives a “write-in” vote and the number of votes received. On each tally sheet, the counters shall add together the names of candidates that are clearly the same person, even though a nickname or last name is used. Names of fictitious persons shall not be listed.

September 13, 2012

North End Voters Challenge "Spoiled" Smith Ballot

Re-count Committee: Lea Terhune (Ward 4), Mary Jay Mulowney (Ward 4), Richard "Terry" Jeroloman, and Carol Burke.
Pre-recount instructions (given by election official) included the directive that we could not count Smith, A. Smith, or Ann Smith as a valid write-in vote, because Smith is a common name in VT. People questioned that, and we were told that it was a decision made by Sec of State Condos based on Election Law.
When our committee encountered this example, we felt the voter's intent was clear. We called the election official to our table, and questioned the decision that "Smith" was not an acceptable write-in vote. The official told us it could not be counted as a write-in vote for Annette Smith, and she  instructed us to count it on our tally sheet as a SPOILED ballot. (That did not make sense to us either, because there was a category "combined other "[names].)  We made our objection known to the press -- told them our concerns, and our objections to the ruling. Bottom line: isn't it our job to determine the voter's intent?
Later on we learned that a reporter had checked with Jim Condos, and Condos said he did not exactly say we couldn't count a write-in for "Smith." We went to the election official, and asked to amend our tally sheet. The official admitted that she had talked with Jim Condos and that he affirmed that the will of the voter was our determination to make. She offered to let us amend our tally. I pointed out that every other group recounting got the same misinformation, and could have failed to fairly consider a Smith write in because we were told "Smith" could not be counted based on election law.
All four of the people who signed our tally sheet were present and in agreement that the voter's intent was to vote for (Annette) Smith. We voided the original tally, and filled out two new tally sheets, marked AMENDED, and all signed the new amended tally sheets.
Later when speaking with the press, the election official said she told us it was our decision to make, but she DID NOT tell us that. She told the person who was filling out our tally sheet (MJ Mulowney) to record the "Smith" write-in ballot as spoiled.
Most important, the election official never told others conducting the recount that "Smith" or a variation was acceptable IF they determined it was the intent of the voter to write-in a vote for Annette Smith. So everyone recounting today in Burlington got mis-information regarding the eligibility of Smith variation write-ins. Even when the election official knew she had given out misinformation, she did not correct it. Presumably, the same misinformation was given statewide.

Statewide election that hinged on 1 vote, interpretation could make the difference. It turned out 2 B wrong. #BTV 

March 13, 2012

Dead People and Clones Offered Ballots in Vermont

Caught on Tape: Dead People and Clones Offered Ballots in Vermont Primary

On Super Tuesday in Vermont, Poll workers caught on tape handing out Ballots in names of dead people and giving out ballots in living people's ...

March 5, 2012

Last minute voting rule clarifications

Phonecall to Clerk's Office. Kathy, who has been there for 25 years, answered our questions.

  •  Provisional ballots are no longer used. People who are not registered can not vote. People should call the city clerk's office to check registration status if they have any doubts.
  • If people have not voted for many years, their checklist status may be Inactive/Challenged. They can vote if they sign an Affirmation of Domicile/Residence (under pain of penalty for perjury) and [Board for Registration of Voters member] the WARD CLERK confirms that you are not registered elsewhere in the state. Polls have a direct link to the state registration, and/or a copy of the statewide checklist.
  • If you are registered in another ward and have moved, but did not change your address, you can not vote in the new ward. Can you vote in ward where you are registered even though you no longer live there? Not clear about this. Call the clerk's office to be sure where you can vote. Polls no longer offer provisional ballots.
  • If you registered at DMV, bring your registration paper as instructed when you registered.

 Here are the March Town Meeting election results on the city web site. Number of people voting in any one election goes up and down for many reasons but we can all see the general results. Wards 4 and 7 are in first and second place regularly, but as you can see, we switch positions. Who will have the honor of FIRST PLACE this year?

                2010       2011

Ward 1      648         426

Ward 2      506         315

Ward 3      691         592

Ward 4      1809       1194

Ward 5      1301       857

Ward 6      860         561

Ward 7      1430       1279

Ward 7 City Council

Paul Decelles

    August 23, 2011

    Fill Seat of Rep. Larson, D Dist 3.2 - Heineberg Center 9/14/11 @ 7PM.


    The 3-2 Representative District Committee of the Burlington City Democratic Party is holding a meeting to vote for candidates to recommend to Governor Peter Shumlin to fill the House of Representatives vacancy created by Representative Mark Larson's resignation.

    Any resident of Legislative District 3.02 who is  interested in being recommended to the Governor to fill Rep. Larson's term by the Representative District Committee of the Burlington City Democrats must:
    1. send Greg Jenkins a brief statement, including name, physical address and statement why you are interested in filling the position in advance of the meeting; and
    2. Appear in person at the meeting to give a brief oral statement regarding your interest and answer questions from the members of the Representative District Committee.
    The Representative District Committee will hold the meeting at 7:00 on Wednesday September 14, 2011 at the Heineberg Community Center, located at 72 Heineberg Road, Burlington, VT.
    The Representative District Committee will recommend to the Governor up to three names.
    If you have questions please do not hesitate to contact Greg Jenkins at 802-355-4562

    Interest thus far:
    David Berezniak, Jim Couture, Carmen George, David Lines, Kate Neubauer, Jean O'Sullivan.

    Contact persons for more information:
        Greg Jenkins
        Brooks McArthur 
        Seven Days, Shay Totten

    May 28, 2011


    The Acting City Clerk met with City Attorney and Sec. of State's Office Election Director to clarify the use of Affirmation of Domicile/Residence at the polls as required in state election statutes. Here's a link to the form:  AFFIRMATION OF RESIDENCE/DOMICILE . It is used when a voter has been mailed a notice of challenge because they have not voted recently, and have not confirmed residency before the election.

    The failure to use the affirmation form at Burlington polls was pointed out to the Board by NEVIS, and by one of the Board Members who was appointed in June 2010. The Board Chair apparently consulted with the State Elections Director who she says told her the affirmation of domicile/residence form was for a specialized use not relevant to Burlington. The Board member, a home-schooling mom, researched the question for herself and came back with the information that the law is not being followed if the Affirmation is not used to affirm the residency of inactive/challenged voters.

    When the use of the Affirmation was discussed at a meeting of the Board for Registration of Voters most recently, the board member asked if the State Elections Director could attend their next meeting. Her request was ignored. Instead, at the next meeting, the Acting Clerk told them he would ask for a meeting with the State Elections Director, and that board members could attend. Subsequent discussion confirmed the meeting, and that the Board Chair and any interested board members would be included. However, when the meeting took place, a board member who attended was told the meeting was CLOSED, that it was a lawyer-client discussion between the parties listed above, and she was waved away by the Acting Clerk.

    Report on that meeting at next Board for Registration of Voters, June 7, 6 pm, Rm 17.

    April 27, 2011


    § 3-43. Composition; duties; appointments; offices
    (a) The city council with mayor presiding shall constitute the board of civil authority for said city, except that all duties with respect to preparing checklists of voters and making additions thereto or alterations or corrections thereon imposed upon said council by this charter or the provisions of the general statutes relating thereto shall be performed by a board of nine (9) members, to be known as the board for registration of voters. Not more than five (5) members of said board shall at any one time be from the same political party.
    (c) Said board shall maintain an office in the city hall of the city, open for business during the regular business hours of said city, wherein shall be kept available for public inspection the records pertaining to the qualifications of all legal voters and freemen of the city. Said board shall advise any petitioner affected by an adverse decision of his or her statutory right to seek judicial review of such decision. Said board shall also appoint a clerk, who need not be a member thereof, who shall have such duties as the board may assign, together with the duties imposed upon the chief administrative officer by sections 106 and 107 of the Vermont Statutes, Revision of 1947, as amended. Records of the taking of freemen's oaths heretofore kept by the city clerk shall be transferred to the clerk of said board.

    DUTIES OF CAO [106 and 107 ? of the Vermont Statutes, Revision of 1947]
    § 3-17. Chief administrative officer to post lists; copies to be filed in chief administrative officer's office.  It shall be the duty of the chief administrative officer to cause the original of each and every checklist of voters at any time ordered to be posted by the board for registration of voters of said city, to be filed in the chief administrative officer's office with his or her certificate attached, that true copies of such lists have been posted as directed by said board, together with the time and place in said city at which the same were posted, which certificate shall be prima facie evidence of such posting.

    § 3-16. Additions or corrections permitted
    The board for registration of voters shall, pursuant to the notice set forth in section 15 of this chapter, meet to make additions to, or alterations and corrections in, the list required by section 14 of this chapter.

    April 21, 2011


    Burlington Clerk "inadvertently" sent out a challenge letter that did not comply with the statute, so now Acting CAO City Clerk Schrader says ALL Inactives will be restored to Active status. Inactive/Challenged voters will be required to sign Affirmation of Domicile/Residence (under pain of penalty for perjury) in proposed special election.

    In the past, if an Inactive/challenged voter came to vote, by statute they were required to be given an Affirmation of Domicile/Residence form to sign, declaring the address of their legal residence (under pain of penalty for perjury). But our poll workers were not using that form. No ID required, no affirmation of domicile/residence -- just say a name that is on the checklist, and you get a ballot. NEVIS questioned this procedure two years ago, and a newly appointed Board member questioned the Board about it repeatedly in the past year, urging them to read the law and comply with it.

    The Sec of State's Office  to 7904 named voters at the address they used to register sometime in the past ~20 years. Some who receive the letter will return the postcard indicating they have moved and want to be taken off the checklist, or still live at the same address. Most will be undeliverable or not returned, and the checklist will be vulnerable to fraud until the cycle of two general election concludes and as long as the Board continues to treat the Affirmation of Domicile/Residence as a bothersome inconvenience!

    We need a fresh slate of appointments for the Board for Voter Registration. Members who do not have good attendance, or who have not fulfilled Board responsibilities, need to be replaced. Members were not trained properly, nor did they read the law or avail themselves of training materials available from the Sec of State. Many members were  dismissive, condescending, and/or inexcusably rude to a new member who asked questions, and tried to tell them, for example, that they were not using the Affirmation of Domicile/Residence form as required by statute.

    City Council needs to adopt a general practice of  not reappointing old members if there are new applicants, so the boards and commissions are always refreshed. Council needs to infuse the Board with new member. Council must require annual orientation and training by the Sec of State's Office so new members are knowledgeable about the process, policy and procedures; and all members are annually reminded of their responsibilities and informed of changes in policy, procedure, or the statute.

    April 12, 2011

    Deadline May 11 to Apply for Board of Registration of Voters

    There are two openings coming up in June on the Board for Registration of Voters. Deadline for application is May 11. NEVIS is hoping that a member of the League of Women Voters and an advocate of True the Vote will apply. Both these groups are passionate about the integrity of the vote, and integrity begins with a clean certified checklist. The Acting City Clerk says the Board needs to: 

    " the process of attempting to determine, with certainty, the true status of the voter's residence and therefore, their voting eligibility. In addition...board [will] adopt a policy and procedure that provides for a systematic process of regularly challenging voters on the City's checklist..." [Scott Schrader, Acting City Clerk. April 5, 2011]

    The city's website link to the "Complete List..." is not currently working but I've notified  Lori and expect she will have it corrected soon. Note that the Board for Registration of Voters, at the bottom of the list, is a Miscellaneous 5 year Appointment:  Complete List of Commissioners, Advisory Boards, City Representatives on Regional Boards, Miscellaneous Appointments 

    List of Open Commission Seats -- 2 open seats on Board for Registration of Voters

    April 6, 2011


    Active: 26,465     
    Inactive/Challenged: 7,904
    Other: 413
    Total: 34,782 

    Unfortunately most, if not all of the Inactive/Challenged voters within the HAVA system have not been challenged in accordance with law. Approximately two years ago, the City sent a postcard developed by the State that did not conform to a change in State Law that required the Towns and Cities to provide the registered voter, among other information, a statement that "if he or she fails to return the form as provided in this subdivision, written affirmation of the voter's address shall be required before the voter is permitted to vote", as well as "information concerning how the voter can register to vote in another state or another municipality within this state."  If authorized by the Board of Voter Registration, the clerk's office will "re-classify all challenged voters from inactive to active..."  [Scott Schrader, April 5, 2011] 

    From Secretary of State: Jim Condos

    ...according to recent discussions between my Elections Division and with Scott Schrader, the staff in Burlington is currently going through the process of sending out the correct challenge letters and return postcards or forms… as required by the National Voting Rights Act of 1993.
    ...Burlington, by charter, has a board of voter registration.  The charter states that “it shall be the duty of the board for registration of voters to prepare full and complete lists of the voters…and to certify the same to the chief administrative officer.”  The board of voter registration also is authorized by the charter to alter or correct the checklist – including purging of ineligible voters.
    ...The Secretary of State’s office houses the statewide voter checklist but the cities and towns “own” their data and thus are responsible for purging their own checklist. In the City of Burlington, by charter, that body is the Board of Voter Registration whereas in most other cities and towns it would be the Board of Civil Authority.


    7,904 challenged/inactive voters [have been?] [will be?] returned to active status on the checklist because the city did not send out the correct letter to registrants who have not voted in recent elections. Error discovered when Linda Chagnon read the election law and noticed that clerks were not using an "Affirmation of Domicile/Residence" form at the polls, and she asked the board for clarification on this procedure. She also went to the Acting City Clerk, who said he would assure compliance. The form is mandated by statute, to be used when a person who hasn't voted recently, and hasn't responded to the challenge letter asking them to confirm that they live in Burlington, appears at the polls to vote.

    Concluded: The city did not follow the statutory process in challenging inactive voters on the checklist. "Therefore all challenges brought against voters most likely will not withstand a legal challenged [sic] and, as such, on advice from the City Attorney's Office and the Secretary of State's Office should be rescinded." [Scott Schrader, Acting City Clerk, April 5, 2011]

    Proposed: " re-initiate the process of attempting to determine, with certainty, the true status of the voter's residence and therefore, their voting eligibility. In addition...board adopt a policy and procedure that provides for a systematic process of regularly challenging voters on the City's checklist..." [Scott Schrader, Acting City Clerk. April 5, 2011]

    Serious questions remain about other violations, such as the board cursorily approving incomplete registrations or signing off on registrations after information has been added in the clerk's office to complete a registration form. 

    March 19, 2011


    We would be glad to have an explanation of this from the Board for Registration of Voters. We will request an explanation, but for now we have to piece the evidence together for ourselves.

    Why doesn't Burlington's City Clerk -- Acting or otherwise -- abide by state election law? How did it happen that the Board of Registration of Voters, representing the people and appointed by the City Council, is a powerless rubber stamp today?

    Is there evidence that the checklist is bloated and people are voting fraudulently?
    • Example, approx 1600 inactive registrants on the Ward 1 checklist required challenge letter after they did not vote in the last 2 federal elections. According to the Sec of State's Office, they were not challenged because the City Clerk "inadvertently" did not send out the legal challenge letter and postcard. Inactive/Challenged registrants can vote if they sign the "Affirmation of Residence/Domicile," A member of the board of Registration of Voters requested that copies of the form be available at the polls, and she was told that we don't use that form (as required by law) because people in Burlington are in a hurry to vote, or something ridiculous like that.
    • Example, a candidate sent flyers to checklist registrants in a neighborhood, first class mail, and HALF were returned undeliverable, no such person at that address. Candidate noticed someone on the list who had been dead for 20 years, AND noted that someone was voting using the candidate's residence as their domicile! 
    Conclusion: Evidence suggests that the checklist is bloated and vulnerable to voter fraud.

      Here's a link to the form Affirmation of Residence/Domicile that is required by state election law:  AFFIRMATION OF RESIDENCE/DOMICILE .

      March 16, 2011


      Burlington election officials are not trained by the Sec of State, they are trained by the Burlington City Clerk's office apparently because our elections are different than elsewhere in the state. How are they different? Is our City Clerk required to follow state election law, for example regarding checklist certification? 

      State law requires voter checklist certification before every election. Voters who have not voted are inactive and when sent a form letter with a return post card, they are challenged. People who do not return the postcard have inactive/challenged status on the checklist. The checklist is certified and posted in public places. Inactive/challenged status voters who appear at the polls to vote must sign an Affirmation of Domicile/Residence form affirming that they are a resident at the address on the checklist, or if they have moved they state their current address, under pain of penalty for perjury. If they do not appear and affirm, they are purged from the checklist and archived.

      In Burlington, the Board of Voter Registration has the responsibility to register voters, purge the checklist, certify the checklist, and post the checklist before an election. They may also be responsible for administering the Affirmation of Domicile/Residence at the polls. They meet on the first Tuesday of each month. Apparently today they rubber stamp what the City Clerk's Office does or fails to do. Exactly WHO The City Clerk IS? appears to be shadowy, and the challenge/purge law is definitely not being followed. The Sec of State's election office used the word "inadvertently": Burlington City Clerk's Office inadvertently did not send out the challenge letter and postcard. How long has challenge/purge of checklist process been ignored? 


      ~Sec of State, Elections Division:

      ~Burlington election ordinances -Title 24, Chapt 3. 

      § 29 Checklist to be prepared and posted

      § 3-14. List of voters to be prepared; posting
      Preceding each annual or special city or ward election to be held in said city, it shall be the duty of the board for registration of voters to prepare full and complete lists of the voters in the respective wards of said city, and to certify the same to the chief administrative officer. One copy of such lists shall be posted by or under the direction of the chief administrative officer in some public place in the wards to which the voters whose names are on such list respectively belong, at least twelve days previous to any such election.

      J.P. Manual explains the election laws:

      p.12: ELECTION RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE [BOARD OF CIVIL AUTHORITY].... f)  Removing Names From the Checklist.  (Challenging and Purging the Checklist) 1.  Timing. Challenging voter names on the checklist is another function of the board of civil authority that may be done at any duly warned meeting.  A review of the checklist may be done at any time.  However, systemic purges must be completed at least 90 days before any federal, state or local election. 17 V.S.A. § 2150(b).  

      March 9, 2011


      Removing Names From Checklist.  (Challenging and Purging the Checklist) Challenging voter names on the checklist is another function of the board of civil authority that may be done at any duly warned meeting.  A review of the checklist may be done at any time. However, systemic purges must be completed at least 90 days before any federal, state or local election. 17 V.S.A. § 2150(b).   

      Inquiry. The first step in the purging process is an initial inquiry.  Is there any evidence that the voter is no longer eligible to vote?  BCA members may consider and rely on official and unofficial public records and documents, including telephone directories, city directories, newspapers, death certificates, tax records or checklists showing whether the voter has voted in any election in the last four years. The board may even designate someone to contact the voter personally. 

      Sending Voter Notice (Challenge Letter). If there is reason to question eligibility, or if the BCA has been unable to contact the voter, the board should send the voter written notice questioning whether the voter still resides in town. The notice should be sent to the voter's most recent known address, with "return service requested" on the envelope.  A postage paid preaddressed return card or letter must accompany the notice, giving the voter an opportunity to swear to maintaining his or her current legal street address within the town or to consent to removal of the voter's name from the checklist.  17 V.S.A. § 2150(d)(3).  The notice should explain that if the voter fails to return the enclosed response card before the deadline for voter registration for the next election, written sworn affirmation of residence in town will be required before they will be allowed to vote.  Challenge letters can now be printed from the statewide checklist.
      See notes from last year, same questions. Summit Notes, March 20, 2010  

      March 4, 2011

      Wards 4 and 7 poll highest number of voters in the city with 37 and 31%

      *Reminder, the city checklist is bloated, especially in wards populated by students - 34,778;  and, as Roger suggests below, voters feel used and abused and trust is lacking. Some residents reported voting early at City Hall, where staff left their ballots on a desk in the clerk's office instead of placing them in a locked box. Kilbourn suggests replacing mayor with City Manager, and others suggest replacing Asst. CAO with an elected City Clerk. 

      With turnout tiny in some wards, Burlington voters showed frustration BY JOHN BRIGGS, FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • THURSDAY, MARCH 3, 2011

      Following Tuesday’s elec­tion, Mayor Bob Kiss betrayed no anxiety, avoided labeling the [New] North End as naysayers or demagogues as he has previ­ously, and he calmly told Chan­nel 17 he would make a decision in the fall about running for a third term.

      He attempted no explanation for the low turnout (17 percent) or for the poor numbers (for him) across the city. In interviews Wednesday, others did, pointing to a disillusioned electorate and an inability of the mayor or other leaders to generate enthusiasm for the measures on the ballot.
      It was residents in Wards 4 and 7 who supplied the lion's share of votes against measures Kiss supported -- including a 4-cent tax increase and a 50-percent threshold for electing a mayor. These were the wards that demonstrated the highest voter turnout, 37 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
      Elsewhere, the voting numbers were startling, even for those who campaigned against the proposed tax increase and the 50 percent voting requirement for mayor. Turnout estimates show voting was miniscule in Wards 1 (8 percent), 2 (7 percent), 3 (11 percent) and 6 (14 percent).
      Roger Kilbourn, a New North End resident and lifelong Democrat who works as a real estate appraiser for the state tax department, said he wasn't surprised to see the budget items go down.
      "We the voters have so little control over what government does," he said. "What can you do other than say 'no'?"
      He thinks many of his neighbors and others in town have become so frustrated over issues such as Burlington Telecom's financial woes they have "just thrown up their hands" because the politicians "are going to do what they're going to do." Frustration and discontent, he said, lead to low participation in government.
      "You had a clear, bright day," he said, and even though modest turnout is predictable in an off-year election, Tuesday's 17 percent indicated "people are disengaging, and those who did turn out are sufficiently motivated by their anger."
      The tax increase that Kiss said was necessary passed only in Ward 2 (by seven votes); citywide, 69 percent of those who voted rejected it. The negative numbers were highest in the New North End (77 percent in Ward 4 and 81 percent in Ward 7).
      Heavy "no" votes in the New North End and Ward 6 also sank the 50 percent for mayor question (58 percent "no" in total), but the "yes" votes in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 5 weren't overwhelming. The greatest support was in Ward 2, where the vote for change to a 50-percent requirement was 227-151 (60 percent in favor).
      Kilbourn said the management issues that have surfaced in the last 18 months suggest to him that Burlington might need to consider moving to a city-manager form of government with a manager "working at the pleasure of the council. You need someone who has been trained and has experience in local government management," he said. "Clearly, we don't have that today."
      City government has become too complex, he said, "to rely on a politician."
      Dave Hartnett, a conservative Democrat who was unopposed for the council seat in Ward 4, recoiled from the city-manager suggestion.
      "I don't want the last five years to set a precedent for how we govern the city," he said. "It's worked well in the past."
      He called Tuesday "a sad day" for the city.
      "I can't remember a day in Burlington when people have voiced their displeasure so loudly," he said. "It was really kind of doomsday, and I don't recall such a low turnout. I think the people who stayed home are so discouraged they're giving up."
      "I think we're in for a long year," he said. The mayor's seat is up for election in 2012.
      David Zuckerman, a Progressive and former state representative, said the election was not simply a referendum on Kiss.
      "There were very few contested races and little energy on any issue," he said.
      He said the lassitude is a reflection of Kiss's inability to generate "excitement around the potential in Burlington civic life." But he also suggested that Democrats on the council failed to push for passage of the 50 percent issue or announce their support for the Burlington Electric Department bond issue, which failed.
      "Bob didn't communicate well," Zuckerman said of Kiss, "the caucuses of the council didn't communicate well, and that leads to antipathy. Between some of Bob's communications issues and the negativity from those who like to score political points, many people are just tired of it."
      To analyze turnout by ward in Burlington’s election Tuesday, the Free Press reviewed voting totals from the school budget question, which had the highest number of total votes with 5,922. The figures approximate but do not necessarily equal true voting turnout, since not all voters necessarily voted on this particular question.
            Read the Comments for some thought-provoking responses.