Burlington officials to mayor: Don’t suppress vote on $67.4 million school budget election

VOTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT: Officials from the City of Burlington are calling on Mayor Miro Weinberger to send out absentee ballots for the June 3 school budget vote.

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A Burlington city councilor and two school board commissioners are calling on Mayor Miro Weinberger to resend absentee ballots to all voters who requested them for the school budget election originally held on Town Meeting Day.

“We are asking Mayor Weinberger to overturn his decision which as it stands will most certainly disenfranchise voters of Burlington, reduce voter turnout, and minimize the validity of the June 3rd election,” said a joint statement by councilor Dave Hartnett and school board commissioners Keith Pillsbury and Scot Shumski.

The officials are expected to hold a news conference Monday at C.P. Smith Elementary School in Burlington to raise awareness about the issue.

On Town Meeting Day — March 1 — when residents of Burlington voted down a $66.9 million budget for Burlington’s schools, more than 1,300 people cast votes using absentee ballots. O, officials in Burlington announced last week that the city would not automatically send out absentee ballots for the upcoming June 3 election, which asks voters to approve an even higher $67.4 million budget.

Eileen M. Blackwood, city attorney for Burlington, told Vermont Watchdog that Burlington is not automatically sending absentee ballots because the election is “new,” a determination she said was reached in consultation with state Director of Elections Will Senning.

“This requirement of a ‘special city meeting’ seems to clearly indicate that this is a new and separate election. In addition, the board has altered the budget, so the question to be voted on is not identical to that presented in March,” she said.

But Shumski said Barre City Clerk Carol Dawes told him it is standard practice to resend absentee ballots in such situations because the elections are not new elections, but merely re-votes. He also noted that Barre City, Jericho, Underhill and Richmond automatically sent out absentee ballots this year for their school budget special elections.

“This isn’t the precedent that you don’t send them out. I’m not clear why that’s happening,” Shumski said.

“I think we as a community should make this important decision, and when our schools are in such a crisis, you want more people weighing in on something like this. For whatever reason the mayor doesn’t want it.”

Contact Bruce Parker at bparker@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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