Most towns in Vermont will hold town meetings on Tuesday, March 1. These meetings are held every year on the first Tuesday of March. Citizens of the towns elect officials, but they also directly decide on the town’s annual budget, specific appropriations, and other policy issues through ballot questions called articles.
Towns in Vermont use two methods for electing officials and deciding ballot questions: (a) floor voting or (b) Australian ballots, which are ballots cast at a polling place like during in-person, election-day voting for other elections. Towns can also use a combination of the two methods. Floor voting takes place when town citizens congregate in one location and hold debates and vote on motions.
Floor voting can take place through (a) voice votes; (b) hand counts, usually used when the moderator cannot tell the results of a voice vote; or (c) paper ballots passed out, filled in, and collected at the meeting. State law requires paper ballots to be used to elect officials when they are elected through floor voting.
Vermont law makes town meeting day a holiday for employees of the state. It also allows all employees in the state to take unpaid time off for town meeting day, with an exception for the essential operation of the state’s business. State law allows towns to hold town meetings for floor votes on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday before the first Tuesday in March. Polls, however, must be open for Australian Voting on Town Meeting Day if that method is used.
According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s voting methods and turnout statistics by town for 2021:
- about 65% of listed towns used Australian ballot voting to elect town officers, and 35% used floor voting;
- about 28% used Australian ballot voting for approving a budget, and 72% used floor voting;
- about 37% used Australian ballot voting for ballot questions; and
- about 56% moved to Australian ballot voting in 2021.
To get a clearer idea of town meetings, which are unique to New England local government, we’ll look closer at the officers and articles that voters in Montpelier, Vermont, will decide at their 2022 town meeting.
Montpelier voters will use Australian ballot for all officials and ballot questions. They will choose
- the mayor;
- District 1, 2, and 3 city council members;
- a parks commission member;
- two cemetery commission members;
- Montpelier Roxbury School District board members, school treasurer, and school clerk; and
- a Central Vermont Public Safety Authority Board member.
They will also vote on 15 local ballot questions: 10 town questions; four school district questions; and one question for the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority, which includes the towns of Montpelier and Barre. Three questions were put on the ballot through signature petitions. Binding, financial expenditure measures can be added to the Montpelier ballot through a petition signed by 10% of registered voters.
Citizens will vote either in favor of or against specific proposals deciding:
- mayor and city council member compensation;
- a $10.66 million budget for debts, expenses, and taxes in the 2022-2023 fiscal year;
- two measures proposing town appropriations for specific purposes;
- four bond issue measures;
- a property tax within the town’s designated downtown area;
- Montpelier Roxbury School District board member compensation;
- a $26.94 million budget for the Montpelier Roxbury School District;
- an additional appropriation for the Capital Reserve Fund of the Montpelier Roxbury School District and a measure allowing the district board to spend audited fund balances for operations; and
- an appropriation for the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority District of $30,000—with $15,900 from Barre City and $14,100 from Montpelier.
Ballotpedia is covering local measures in 2022 that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities and all local ballot measures in California. Ballotpedia’s 2022 local ballot measure coverage in Vermont includes Montpelier.