In more than half of Vermont’s cities and towns Tuesday’s Town Meeting Day ballots will be counted by hand. The state has the technology to change that, but many towns are not making the switch. Calais Town Clerk Donna Fitch is getting ready for Town Meeting Day, when ballots will be counted the same way they were when she was a little girl–by hand. “It’s nice to have all of us sit around and count the ballots and everybody takes it very seriously, but it does mean we are often up late,” she said. Fitch will work with a team of ten to count the votes in the town of 16-hundred. It’s the same way 142 of Vermont’s 246 cities and towns will tally their totals.
Calais considered a plan to switch to counting ballots electronically following the drawn out and hotly contested 2000 presidential election, but it did not gain traction. “When we have those meetings it was around the time of those hanging chads, people were very apprehensive about going to any kind of machinery,” Fitch said.
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos is hoping the use of electronic tabulators will spread and has roughly 14-million dollars in federal money to cover the tab for communities that want to get on board. Condos says the machine can cut down the final count from hours to just minutes and calls the technology, that’s been around for years, “very accurate.”