Absentee Ballots Are Available for Upcoming Elections
I hope your Independence Day was lovely. We took our usual ride around and got stuck behind one parade in New Hampshire, but it didn't last long. The lack of celebration seemed eerie and a bit sad, but I trust people found safe and family-oriented ways to celebrate the Fourth.
We stopped for ice cream as we always do, and more than once, I marveled at the weather and how glorious everything looks at this time of the year. I admit that while I was driving, I found it hard not to be entranced at the puffy white clouds in the distance, the myriad rivers we drove by and over, and the corn along the roadside, most of which was at the knee-high stage and on its way to elephant’s eye.
For me, the weather last Saturday heralded the best few weeks of summer. The temperature seems right. The sun continues to set late. The humidity, at least to me, is manageable. When it comes to gardening, all the hard work is done. Now it's time for the three Ws—weeding, watering, and waiting. While I wait, let’s talk about two civic duties.
The first is that the August primary is fast approaching. To be specific, it is on August 11. With the pandemic, the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot is an extra safety precaution for you, your friends and neighbors, and the folks who administer the elections.
By now, you should have received a postcard from the Vermont Secretary of State. You can use it to request an absentee ballot.
The card is folded in half and sealed. On the address side, it is labeled “Official Election Mail.” When you break the seal, you’ll see it’s a pre-paid postcard. Flip the postcard part over and fill in the fields to request an absentee ballot. Using this card, you can request a ballot for the August primary and/or the November general election. Once you complete the form, you can detach the part you filled out and mail it back in.
You can also request an absentee ballot by visiting the “My Voter Page” on the Vermont state website (https://mvp.vermont.gov/) or by calling the Town Clerk's office at 484-7250 during regular business hours.
The other civic duty is the 2020 census. With everything (and I mean everything) that has happened this year, it is easy to forget the decennial count of all people living in America. It is still happening, and if you haven’t completed the census yet, there is still time.
The census figures guide how the federal government distributes funds, so it is essential that you be counted. As of this writing (July 5, 2020), approximately 44% of the people in Reading have completed their census. In 2010, the final percentage of respondents was 55.4%. Not great, but better than where we are now.
To put this into some context, among the towns that make up the Windsor Central Supervisory Union, Reading lags behind Woodstock and Pomfret in the percentage of people who have completed their census. Windsor County hasn't hit 50% of people responding. Eight of Vermont's 14 counties have a higher percentage of respondents than does Windsor County. In New England, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island have the lowest response rates.
If you haven’t responded yet, here are ways you can do it.
You can go to my2020census.gov. If you have the 12-digit census ID sent to you earlier, you can enter it to begin. If you do not, you will need to answer a few questions to get started.
You can respond by phone to 844-330-2020. If English is not your preferred language, visit https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond/responding-by-phone.html to find the number for your preferred language.
You can also respond by mail. You received a letter back in March, and then a follow up in April if you hadn't responded. The return address on these communications was "U.S. Census Bureau" and "U.S. Department of Commerce." You can fill out the form and return it.
In closing, I want to acknowledge Vanessa Maxham and everyone who took part in the Kids Bike Ride for Change, which happened last Sunday. Though not technically a civic duty, the event was civic-minded. I didn’t push the pedals, but I did go to the Fire Station to check it out. There were about 20 folks there, all masked up and biked up and ready to go. After a few beautiful words by Vanessa and a photo in front of the Black Lives Matter sign by the station, the riders hit the road.
Not only did the ride raise awareness, but it also raised over $1700. Vermont Overland and Peter Vollers committed to matching every dollar up to $500. The money goes to Conscious Kids (consciouskids.org), an organization dedicated to equity and promoting positive racial identity development in youth.
Enjoy summer! Be safe!
That’s the news from Reading! See you next week
This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on July 9, 2020.