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Weekend Buzz | Town Clerk to Clarify Poll Worker Requirements on Application
See you at Made in Burlington!
Good Morning, Neighbors!
First of, sorry for the two emails yesterday. The boxes, they’re tricky, and sometimes I forget to uncheck one of them.
Today I want to follow up on a story from last week, but first I want to remind you to come hang out with the Buzz crew at the Made in Burlington Winter Marketplace. We’ll be at Wayside Common today from 10-3 with all kinds of merchandise as well as Scarlet Lends a Helping Hoof books (one of the Mini Buzzes published this sweet children’s book earlier this year, and it’s the perfect gift for your friends and family members who aren’t yet old enough to appreciate the Buzz 😉). Tons of local makers will be there selling their amazing goods, and you simply must come.
Poll Worker Regulations, Clarified
Now, let’s talk about the issue of the lawn signs.
It came up a few days before the election that the Town Clerk’s office had informed poll workers that if they had a lawn sign expressing a stance with regard to the election, they would not be able to work the polls. I reported briefly on this last week in the interest of time, but I promised you more thorough information after I was able to speak with our Town Clerk.
I spoke with Town Clerk Amy Warfield on Thursday and clarified the details from her perspective. According to Warfield, it has been a long-standing policy that poll workers are not allowed to publicly support a candidate or ballot question.
Warfield says the Clerk’s office is responsible for ensuring people have “the confidence that we are truly running the fairest, neutralest [sic] election possible so that everyone is allowed to feel free to vote how they want to vote, that they don’t ever feel pressured… or feel that someone at the polls is doing something not right.”
While she does admit that the sign requirement hasn’t been enforced as strictly as it should have been in recent years, Warfield says there will be a note on the poll worker applications moving forward stating that anyone who publicly displays a stance on any of the candidates or questions on the ballot will be disqualified from being a poll worker. This includes signage on the worker’s property, even if it belongs to another member of the household.
When I asked if workers were given the opportunity to remove the sign from their property, Warfield said the impression had already been made by that point, and the most appropriate decision as she saw it was to disqualify poll workers so voters could have the greatest possible faith that the election was fair and impartial.
The question has been raised whether this requirement violates poll workers’ First Amendment right to free expression, and I have not heard a definitive legal opinion on this as yet. For Warfield’s part, she says that being a poll worker is a job and appearing impartial is a part of the job requirements.
Warfield says that in the future, these residents will be more than welcome to apply to be poll workers - in fact, they’ve been moved to the top of the list for April’s local election, as long as they’re willing to follow this now more formalized guideline.
Running an election is a super detailed and complex process—one I’ve only gotten a brief peek at as I looked into this story. I’ll do a more in-depth interview of Amy at some point after the dust settles from this election, but for now I’ll leave it at that.
I hope you have a lovely Saturday, and I’ll see you at Made in Burlington!