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Governor signs bill allowing remote municipal meetings

January 15, 2022 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Gov. Phil Scott has signed a bill into law allowing municipal governments to pass budgets with pre-printed ballots for their annual town meetings this year and to hold informational meetings about budgets remotely as COVID-19 continues to spread in the state.

Municipalities may also move their annual meetings, which were often held in-person, to a date later in the year.

This year, Vermont’s traditional Town Meeting Day will be held March 1, although some communities and school districts use alternative dates.

A statement from Scott on Friday said he signed the bill because he believes public concerns about large gatherings may discourage some from participating in in-person meetings. But he said the Legislature missed an opportunity to expand voter access further by expanding automatic mailing of ballots to include school budget votes, local elections and primary elections.

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“General elections already have the highest voter turnout. What we need is increased voter participation for elections like those on Town Meeting Day or school budget votes, which experience a fraction of the turnout of general elections,” he said.

Scott said he will ask the Legislature to start working with the secretary of state on a timeframe and process to mail ballots to registered voters for all elections in Vermont.