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MONTPELIER — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has signed a bill allowing for voting by mail at this year’s town meetings, and is urging local governments and boards to take advantage of that option.

The bill, H. 48, moved quickly through the state House of Representatives and state Senate last week so that town and city clerks can prepare for Town Meeting Day, scheduled for Tuesday, March 2. The legislation allows cities, towns, school boards and other municipal boards to mail town meeting ballots to registered voters, or change the date of their town meetings so they can be held outdoors. It also allows for Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting to be held electronically.

Scott had sought a mandatory vote-by-mail strategy in the bill, saying it would do the most to protect Vermonters from exposure to COVID-19. The Legislature did not agree, saying that it wanted to leave that choice to cities and towns.

In announcing the signing, Scott advocated for voting by mail.

“Although Vermonters value traditions like town meetings and voting in person, I strongly urge local officials to take advantage of the flexibility this law affords by mailing each registered voter a ballot for upcoming elections,” Scott said. “Not only would it accomplish the primary objective of helping keep our friends, families, and neighbors safe, but it will also increase access to the democratic process, ensuring Vermonters don’t need to choose between their right to vote and risking attending a town meeting gathering during a pandemic.”

Greg Sukiennik covers Vermont government and politics for New England Newspapers. Reach him at gsukiennik@reformer.com.

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