by Nat Frothingham
MONTPELIER — In a quick weekend phone conversation on Oct. 30 with Montpelier City Clerk John Odum, he said that early voting for the upcoming Nov. 8 presidential election has already broken local records.
“We’re seeing early voting like nothing we’ve seen before,” he told The Bridge.
From his listening post at the clerk’s office at City Hall, he explained the increased enthusiasm for early voting in two or three ways.
First, Odum said that more people are aware of the early voting option. “It’s not new anymore.”
Second, he said, “It’s being driven in part by the (political) campaigns. Yes, yes,” he said, “they are pushing for early voting.”
Third, and here he emphasized that he was frankly speculating, “But I’ll tell you what I’m hearing from voters every day. That the presidential election has exhausted them.” And a lot of people are coming in early to vote — to be “done with it” at a personal level.
When Odum was asked for an up-to-the-minute number of early voters, he said, “Well, by the time you go to print, the number will no longer be accurate. But by Thursday when you publish, I expect the early voting number to be about 1,300 people.”
Odum went from talking about early voting to talking about the current size of the Montpelier checklist of registered voters. “Our checklist is bloated right now,” he said. “Registered voters are now at 6,300 people. It’s high. We need to do some work on that.”
But whether the checklist is high or not, Odum thinks that about one out of five Montpelier voters are voting by early ballot right now. And he thinks that by polling day on Nov. 8, that number could rise to one out of four voters.
Odum doesn’t think that early voting means that fewer Montpelier voters will vote. “It’s not suppressing turnout,” he said about early voting.
Odum is highly confident about the security of Montpelier’s voting system. “I’m not worried about rigging or hacking the voting machines,” he said. “They’re impenetrable.”
When Odum was reminded that a recent report found a very high incidence of embezzlement in Vermont including town and municipal offices, Odum said he thought our voting system was not at all like a town or city computerized financial system. He said municipal financial systems are linked meaning that more than just one person has access to financial systems. But voting system are “stand-alone” systems, he emphasized.
Odum added that the City of Montpelier’s voting machines have a paper ballot back-up. He said that the federal government requires that these paper ballots “have to be saved for 22 months” after the election.
On Election Day, Nov. 8, polls in Montpelier will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
Odum is inviting anyone who wants to vote with an early ballot to visit the City Clerk’s office at Montpelier City Hall during regular hours — from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
As he has done in other recent elections, Odum is inviting voters to vote early at City Hall on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
When he was asked why the presidential election was being held on Nov. 8 instead of on Tuesday, Nov. 1 — Odum was momentarily at a loss for words.
But only momentarily. He went right online and found the federal language from early in the 19th century to explain what’s happening.
The presidential election is to be held on the first Tuesday of November, except that the first Tuesday must follow the first Monday in November. If like this year, the first Tuesday follows Oct. 31 – that doesn’t work. Thus Election Day this year is Tuesday, Nov. 8.