By Abby Carroll and Aubrey Weaver | Community News Service
Exit polling across central Vermont on Tuesday would suggest the statewide ballot item on reproductive rights, Article 22, was a leading driver for getting voters out to the polls.
Members of the Community News Service, a reporting collaborative between Vermont newspapers and students of the University of Vermont, stopped by polling places around the state to conduct exit interviews. In central Vermont, the CNS team got an earful from voters in four communities: Barre, Berlin, East Montpelier and Montpelier.
Ben Boothby, 45, of East Montpelier, was blunt in his assessment: “I would like to see democracy stay intact.”
Amber Richards, 40, said she was “fairly happy with the way Vermont is governed.”
“I would like to see us continuing to move towards green energy. I would like to continue seeing an investment in education, which definitely has been occurring,” the East Montpelier resident said. “I would like to see a little more investment in public health initiatives. I think that that would be an excellent direction. But in general, I would say I want to see us continuing to move forward.”
Richards said she cared about the ballot item on reproductive rights and the ballot item eliminating “slavery” from the wording of the state Constitution. “I definitely cared about both propositions on the ballot. I was a little questionable about the wording on the abortion change. I believe it should be a right in the Constitution. But I have my questions on the state being able to decide an overriding interest and what that could mean in practice.”
Alison Underhill, 79, of East Montpelier, said she was grateful to be voting in person on Tuesday. “I like to do it in person. I feel more connection, and it also saves on paper,” she said, adding that she also was motivated by Article 22. “I hope that we will allow people to make choices about their bodies.”
Lindy Biggs, 70, arrived at the polling place with her husband, Stephen Knowlton, 69.
“It’s a democracy. We always vote,” Biggs said.
Knowlton added “the health of the democracy” was important to him. “I think the perception that elections are flawed, I think is false. Because if you accept that they’re false, that leads to lack of confidence in who we are as desperate as that sounds.”
A few miles away, outside Montpelier City Hall, things were more raucous, the CNS team reported. Candidates and signs filled the area outside. There was a bustle of activity as voters made their way in and out.
Benjamin Newman, 53, agreed the reproductive rights amendment was “most compelling” to him. “The (amendment) in particular, has incredible meaning, as well as the other amendment (slavery), which I think is also really, really important.”
Heidi Dorr, 62, said she was excited to be casting a vote for Becca Balint for the U.S. House seat. “I like that Becca Balint will be our first female elected to Washington, and that she’s LGBTQ is important to me. … I’m happy that there’s an LGBTQ candidate that is also qualified in other ways.”
Stephen Whitaker was less inspired. He said he did not like the choices on the ballot. “We have slim pickings for good candidates. There’s a lot of lesser of two evils.”
Up the hill in Berlin, Judith Rico, 79, said she was coming out to vote on Tuesday because, “I wanted to vote for the people that I liked and wanted to make sure that they won.” She said even as a registered Democrat, she wanted to continue to support Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who is seeking another term.
In the Granite City, Brittany Viens, 32, said reproductive rights were chief among her motivations for taking part in the election. “Since moving to Vermont, it’s definitely been new. I’ve been more active living here for the past five years.” Voting, she said, is a big part of that.
“I always vote, I make a point to,” said Greg Fuller, 41, of Barre. He said Article 22 and the U.S. Senate race for Patrick Leahy’s seat were important to him,
Ashley Brisco, 33, said she was against Article 22. “One of the reasons I wanted to vote is for the abortion law … I’m against it, I don’t want it.” She added she was also casting a vote for Tom Kelly, a Republican running for one of the two seats representing Barre City in the House of Representatives.
Derrick Megrath, 30, of Barre, said he feels “we need some change.” He said he came out specifically to cast votes for governor and for Article 22. He said it was so important, this may have been only his second time voting.
The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.