I stopped by three polling places in Burlington's Old North End this morning between 8 and 9:15 a.m., to see what was going on. Not much, it seems. I kept feeling like I had just missed the first rush of the day — maybe people tend to vote in the afternoon and early evening on Town Meeting Day, or maybe it's just that March turnout is normally so much lower than what we all experienced during the presidential election last November.
My first stop was Mater Christi, where I filled out my white and pink ballots for the mayoral race and the ballot initiatives. There were about 7 or 8 poll workers, but I think only about 3 other voters were inside. On my way out, I noticed State Representative Kesha Ram (Chittenden 3-04) — she was asking two poll workers whether she was allowed to come in and distribute legislative bulletins. At first there was some confusion, because the poll workers were saying, "But there are no legislative elections today. . ." They got it straightened out that she just wanted to distribute info to constituents, though, and she brought some into the hallway.
Also in the hall, Rep. Dave Zuckerman had placed a stack of his own legislative updates along with a pile of State Senator Bill Doyle's official 2009 Town Meeting Day surveys. Doyle has been conducting the unscientific survey for 41 years — it's pretty much a Town Meeting Day institution. It attempts to take the temperature of Vermonters on 10 different subjects; this year's topics range from whether people support same-sex marriage to whether Vermont's an affordable place to live. I took one, but I plan to mail mine in — I know it's optional to list personal info, but something about having my e-mail and address sitting with my opinions in an open, unmonitored box kind of creeped me out.
Outside, I saw that a resident on the west side of Mansfield Street had attached a poster supporting the school board budget onto a kid's hockey stick. Probably a practical decision, but the resulting image was pretty compelling, too.
I hung around outside Wheeler for a full 10 minutes, but no Ward 2 voters exited while I was standing there. I'd wanted to ask folks what they think of IRV and who they think will win the mayoral race, but the only people outside were holding campaign signs, and I thought they'd be a tad biased.
A woman carrying a Dan Smith sign at one of the entrances to Barnes was talking with another campaigner from a different mayoral camp — I heard them say they guessed about 150 people had come to Barnes to vote, from when the polls opened at 7 a.m. until about 9 a.m. That seemed like a low number to me, given the number of voters in the ward, but maybe it's normal for Town Meeting Day. The second campaigner said, "Yeah, I've seen them, but they all come in through the back way, so they won't have to talk to us!" As close to the school as he could legally be, Ward 3 City Council candidate Steve Ekberg was carrying a big Green Party sign with his name on the other side — no grisly images this time, though. And I think there are no kids in school today anyway, since they're on winter break until tomorrow.
Hopefully more people have started turning up at the polling places, now that it's lunch hour — I don't know whether anyone in Burlington has actually planned to take today off, but if you're registered to vote, there's a mayoral ballot with your name on it out there!