So it’s three days after the election. And if, for some reason, you wanted to take a look at the Vermont returns, your first thought would be the Secretary of State’s website. Right?
Wrong. The state’s unofficial tally is stuck at 74.91% of all precincts, and has been since early Wednesday morning. The most complete (unofficial) returns can be found on VPR.net. (WCAX has apparently taken down its election-night “dashboard.”)
(Update: Just got a note from WCAX News Director Anson Tebbetts letting us know that you can still find their results online. I’m sorry I incorrectly reported their absence.)
So why is the state’s unofficial count (all counts are unofficial until the Canvassers meet next Tuesday) so sadly incomplete, three days after the fact?
Because, to put it bluntly, our election reporting system is a relic of a pre-electronic age, and our state Legislature has completely failed to bring it up to date.
If you obsessively followed the returns on Tuesday night, you would have noticed that WCAX was consistently and substantially ahead of the state. This is because WCAX has put together a huge volunteer effort: stationing someone at each precinct, who can get the results and call them in to Channel 3. As for reporting through official channels to the state:
“The town clerks are not legally obligated to report to us” on election night, according to Secretary of State Jim Condos. He continues:
It’s a convoluted system. Local election officials count their ballots that night. The next morning, the town clerks come in and fill out their official vote reports. They mail them to us in prepaid overnight envelopes provided by the state. We expect to have all the reports by [today.]
That’s all the town clerks are legally obligated to do: mail in the returns on Wednesday. What you see on the Elections Division website — the 74.91% complete results — is what was voluntarily called in by local officials on election night. After those calls stopped coming in, the Elections Division had nothing to update its count with.
Today and over the weekend (if necessary), state election workers will tabulate all the official vote reports. And then wait until the Canvassers meet on Tuesday, where the count will be formally accepted. And published.
One week after the election.
Am I the only one who finds this absurd, ridiculous, nonsensical, (checks Thesaurus) ludicrous, harebrained, insane, cockamamie? Is this the kind of thing Vermonters accept because “we’ve always done it this way”?
In an age where Republicans have reinvented traditional ways through the sheer power of Lenore Broughton’s checkbook, and Democrats have reinvented traditional ways by building a strongly-staffed year-round political operation, can we please reinvent the way we count and report the vote?
“Election night reporting isn’t about me or the clerks,” Condos told GMD. “It’s about serving our constituents, the voters, the media, and the parties.”
Damn straight. Count me among the constituents who wants better service next time around. House and Senate, watchin’ you.