Marlboro Town Clerk addresses campaign violations
Editor of the Reformer:
I have heard from many Marlboro residents with the question, "What happened on Town Meeting Day?" The Board of Civil Authority, which consists of all five Justices of the Peace and the Select Board, has met twice since the Town Meeting election to review and try to make sense of a tumultuous election, in particular the race for Select Board.
The difficulty many of you witnessed at the polling place is described in following statement I issued to the Board of Civil Authority: "The election is over and there was a winner, who has now taken office. I need to express, however, that the passionate campaigners for the winning write-in candidate, Patti Smith, repeatedly infringed on the long-standing campaigning policy in Marlboro, which follows the state law. I will be the first to admit that the written policy is vague, though it follows the statute at 17 VSA, Sec. 2508. There is no law in Vermont that states a specific distance that campaigners must be from the polling place, but the clearest point from the statute is that campaigners may not impede the flow of voters wishing to enter or exit the polls.
As our town attorney Paul Gilles stated in his written response: "It isn't enough to show a violation of the law against campaigning in the polling place. You have to prove that, but for the campaigning, the result would have been different."
Proving that the results would have been different is impossible. So laws were broken, but not to the degree that the election could be contested in court. The tone of the campaigners was a first in Marlboro, as our campaign policy did not address their behavior specifically, while in comparison, the policy I have now seen from the Brattleboro Town Clerk would likely have prevented the behavior from continuing and is multi-faceted in its references to other sections of the law that pertain. These are the types of events that change policies, and I will make public the results of our new campaigning policy once it is completed. It is clear to me that the new policy will go a long way toward preventing such problems in future elections.
Forrest Holzapfel, Marlboro Town Clerk, March 22