By Mary Mead and Sy Koerner, Town Clerk/Assistant Town Clerk

The Vermont Secretary of State’s office is mailing out absentee ballots to every active voter on our checklist as of Sept. 2. Those ballots were mailed out to Charlotte voters on Sept. 25, and they were mailed out to the address we had on record for you as of Sept. 2. If you haven’t received a ballot by Oct. 2 or so, please give us a call and we will make sure you get a ballot. Our office will be mailing out ballots to newly registered voters and voters whose mailing addresses have changed since Sept. 2. If you live out of the country, including Canada, your ballot will be emailed to you. You will still need to mail the ballot back to us, and there are instructions included in the email as to how to do that.

As always, with any absentee ballot for any election, your voted ballot goes inside the envelope that says, “Instructions for Early or Absentee Voters.” You must print your name and sign the envelope, otherwise your ballot is defective and will not be counted. If you are a Jr. or Sr. or III, etc. please put that on your ballot. When you vote in person, we check your name off the voter checklist. Likewise, when an absentee ballot is returned, we are checking off in the computer that the ballot was returned by you and your name is checked off the checklist.

There are different ways to return your ballot to us which can either be in person at the Town Hall, by mail, or dropped in our mail slot by the Town Hall front door if we are not open. I have heard our Secretary of State encouraging people to return their ballots to their Town Clerks on election day. This is of course okay, but it kind of defeats the whole reason for sending everyone an absentee ballot if the purpose was to reduce the number of people at the polls on Nov. 3 for COVID-19 safety reasons. Our office would greatly appreciate voters returning their ballots to us sooner than later.

There is a significant amount of data entry involved with absentee ballot voting. When we receive the request, it is entered into the computer. On the day it is actually mailed or emailed, we go back into the computer and enter the “issued” date and likewise, as each ballot is received, we are going back into the computer and marking it as “received.” On the date that we are printing the checklist for the election, every voter that has submitted an absentee ballot to our office should have a check mark next to their name as having voted.

The ballots, as they are received, are kept in our vault in a secure location, in alphabetical order. After printing the checklist, we look at every ballot and make sure that they are, in fact, included on the checklist to make sure every ballot we say has been returned has been properly accounted for. Every ballot received is marked as voted on the checklist, and no ballots are run through the tabulator until the polls open at 7 a.m. on election day. Ballots must be in our hands by the close of polls at 7 p.m. in order to be counted, so mailing your ballot the day before an election just doesn’t work that well.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, you all will have received your ballots. The ballot is double-sided so make sure you vote both sides. Please fill in the circles as directed so the tabulator can read your vote. If you have made a mistake and need a new ballot you can come into our office with your ballot and we will replace it for you.

If you have any questions, please just call us at (802) 425-3071 or send us an email. Sometimes, the news makes things out to be more complicated than it is. We are just voting in a general election, with a ballot that has been mailed to us by the state vs. the Town Clerk’s Office. Period.