All articles will be by ballot this year



TREMONTBecause of restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather at one time, this year’s annual Town Meeting will all be on paper.  

Selectmen voted to approve the warrant at a special meeting on Tuesday, June 9, in order to meet the deadline set in Governor Janet Mills’ Executive Order 56.  

Mills’ order states a town can decide to do a referendum election for the articles typically decided by open town meeting as long as the warrant is approved 30 days before the date set for Town Meeting.  

Tremont has scheduled its annual Town Meeting the same day as the state’s primary, July 14. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  

“I would encourage absentee voting,” said Selectman Kevin Buck during the selectmen meeting.  

Selectmen approved the $2,828,691 school budget to go before voters during that meeting. By removing the startup costs for the prekindergarten program and a few other large expense items, that budget is $174,749 less than what was proposed by the school before the pandemic. 

Those changes will mean the mil rate for fiscal year 2021 is $10.68, a three percent increase over last year’s rate of $10.37. Voters will be asked to approve a municipal budget of $2,079,947 with $1,306,871 to be raised by taxes.   

Voters will have four ballots this year. One ballot will be for the state primary election. Another ballot will be for the state referendum questions regarding bond issues, one for internet infrastructure and one for transportation improvements, recently passed by the state Legislature. Then, there are two town ballots. One is to vote on elected officials and the other is the town warrant with 53 articles now written to be answered in a yes or no fashion.  

“Every voter has to get all ballots,” said Town Clerk Katie Dandurand on Tuesday in a conversation with the Islander. “That warrant will be posted by the end of the week. There is going to be a public hearing regarding the entire warrant.” 

A public hearing to discuss the warrant articles is scheduled to take place on Monday, June 29, via Zoom. Residents interested in asking members of the Board of Selectmen and the town manager questions can find the link to the meeting on the town’s website. 

“They can come to the town office any time to ask these questions as well,” Dandurand pointed out.  

Because of the logistics involved in voting all warrant articles on paper, Dandurand is also hoping most residents will opt to vote via absentee ballot.  

On voting day, space restraints within the Harvey Kelley meeting room will only allow three people at the polls at a time. Folks standing in line will have to wait in the parking lot, standing 6 feet apart. Selectman Mike Mansolilli joked during their meeting that it will look like Walmart with people standing around the outside of the building.
“I can’t have people waiting inside,” said Dandurand, who will also have election clerks in the room. “People have to wait outside.” 

Absentee ballots are typically mailed to those who request them. This year, when voters receive their packets with all four ballots, there will be more paper inside than in previous years.  

Online requests for an absentee ballot can be made up until July 9. That is also the last day Dandurand can put an absentee ballot in the mail in response to any requests made at the town office. Those ballots must be turned in by 8 p.m. on July 14, and can be done so in person.  

Residents can also fill out an application for an absentee ballot up until 4 p.m. inside the town office on July 14. They can take the ballot home or to their vehicle in the parking lot and fill it out, as long as it is turned in by 8 p.m. that day, Dandurand added.  

One of the biggest challenges for Dandurand and any election clerks she hires for the day will be hand counting the town warrant ballot once the voting has commenced. A machine will count the state ballot questions. 

“State ballot stuff should be done immediately because of the machine,” she said.  

When asked if all of the warrant article questions would need to be counted on the same day they are voted on, Dandurand wasn’t sure.  

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never been in that situation.” 

There are several towns in Maine that conduct their annual town meetings via ballot vote each year. For Tremont and other towns deciding to do so this year because of restrictions due to COVID-19, it will be new ground to hoe. Most importantly, town officials are doing whatever they can to accommodate as many voters as possible.  

There are 1170 registered voters in Tremont. Typically, the annual town meeting draws about 50 residents but last year there were 179 ballots cast, according to Dandurand. This year, because of the meeting running concurrent with the state primary election, she expects a higher turnout like there was in 2018 when close to 200 voters participated. There have already been close to 100 requests for absentee ballots from the town office.  

“Anybody who is in line at eight o’clock (p.m.), whether there is one person or 100 people, they have to vote,” said Dandurand. “Voting could potentially last later than 8 p.m., depending on how many are in line.” 

 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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