Democracy in action: Vernon town budget vote to be held via drive-thru

Politics

VERNON, Conn. (WTNH) — When entering Vernon Town Hall, residents will notice a Plexiglas wooden structure that stands 8 feet tall.

“You walk in [and] we ask you to use the hand sanitize,” said Mayor Dan Champagne.

Champagne said the barrier is about maintaining safety in the pandemic.

“We have a policy for handling paperwork. We set it into bins and leave it there so it airs out and kills the virus itself. When we are dealing with money, we actually wipe it down with Clorox.”

He has a staggered workforce. An “A” team and a “B” team. No departments co-mingle.

How residents vote on the estimated $94 million annual town budget is new too. They’re using a first-ever drive-through vote at the town high school.

Drive Thru voting on the Town budget in Vernon during COVID19

“At the first station, you will hold your license up,” Mayor Champagne said while describing how voting works. “We will read your license. We will verify that you are an elector of the town and that you get to vote on the budget. Then, you drive to the next stop. At the next stop, you basically give a thumbs up for yes, or a thumbs down for no.”

Vernon’s Town Council approved the no tax increase budget last month. This legally noticed vote — required by Charter — allows 28,000 residents a voice.

Something government advocacy groups like CCM, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, praise.

“Keep people safe, but also to continue to allow their important voices to be heard,” Joe DeLong, President Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

Other towns are looking to adopt this drive-through voting method as well. Mayor Champagne said it is legal. The town attorneys signed off, and he also got a commitment from Governor Ned Lamont.

The result of the vote was 106 yes, four no.

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