Mobile vote boosts turnout10/23/08

Early balloting expected to set record

Oct. 23, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

A first-ever mobile voting drive conducted last week gathered scores of ballots from Williston seniors.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett and other local election officials visited Eagle Crest Senior Housing, Falcon Manor Senior Housing, Taft Farms Senior Living Community and Whitney Hill Homestead over a four-day period. A tabletop voting “booth” was set up for a few hours at each housing complex.

A total of 85 ballots were cast and 14 residents registered to vote, said Beckett.

The effort was “absolutely” worthwhile, she said, noting that a significant proportion of residents at each location cast ballots. At Whitney Hill, for example, 20 of the 41 residents voted.

It was all part of a statewide mobile voting effort taking place this election. Williston was one of about 20 municipalities participating in the new program.

The idea of reaching out to voters who might have a hard time getting to the polls or obtaining an absentee ballot was discussed during a brainstorming session last year attended by Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, town clerks and advocates for people with disabilities. Markowitz concluded that mobile voting for seniors was the most practical way to increase voter participation.

Mobile voting will provide a small boost to what is expected to be a record number of ballots cast in advance of the Nov. 4 election in Williston.

Beckett said the previous record for early voting was about 1,200 to 1,300 ballots. As of Friday, 1,020 ballots had been cast, said Beckett. She said the total number of votes cast before Election Day could top 2,000.

Total turnout is also expected to set records, both locally and nationally. Williston had 7,219 registered voters as of Friday, an all-time high.