Sarah Copeland Hanzas: Understanding how government works will empower Vermonters

This commentary is by Vermont Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas.

As I begin my first term as Vermont’s 39th Secretary of State, I am keenly aware of my role as Chief Elections Officer for the state and the responsibility we all share in civic life. Despite the enormous role democracy plays in our everyday lives, many Vermonters are not civically engaged. This lack of engagement creates a void in Vermont’s democracy, a void that is oftentimes filled with dis- or misinformation, attacking the integrity and transparency of government. Elections and voting have been especially popular focus points of these attacks in recent years, but all facets of civic life are negatively impacted by these attacks, which exacerbate apathy and suspicion. It is time for action, not just reaction, against such attacks. This office will spearhead a new civics initiative and bring on a new position, an Education & Civic Engagement coordinator, to implement it; and we will need all the help we can get.

state of Vermont

Vermont Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas

Voting is a Constitutional right, and free elections are the foundation on which faith in government rests. Examples of democracy in action exist around us every day. There are municipal meetings almost every night of the week, citizen petitions and calls to action on Front Porch Forum every day, and lawn signs every spring and fall for town meeting and elections. Despite this, there are many Vermonters who simply don’t vote. We need to recognize that sometimes people don’t vote because they don’t know how to vote, or they don’t know the candidates, or they don’t know whether their vote will make a difference.

The next phase of strengthening elections in Vermont needs to be addressing these gaps. Many of us grew up understanding that civics is about the three branches of government, checks and balances, and one person one vote. And some of us remember being told from a young age that we have an obligation to participate in civic life. But as the demands of a 21st-century education have pulled schools away from requiring civics, and modern life has become increasingly full, many of these lessons have been lost.

Our focus on civic engagement will be on how you make democracy work for you. Civics is about being able to affect change, solve problems and make life better for all of us. Individuals can only do so much on their own. Working together through civic participation allows us to accomplish things that any one individual would be unable to do themselves.

The Education & Civic Engagement Coordinator will be part of the leadership team at this agency and will work with me to create a civics curriculum for our schoolteachers, will engage Vermonters in their communities on how to do democracy, and will create a voter guide for the 2024 General Election, among other activities and initiatives. We have more tools and platforms than ever to engage with voters that my predecessors just did not have at their disposal. But this campaign will also be about “boots-on-the-ground” work, with events, school visits, and other in-person interactions.

I plan to have much more to share about this initiative in the weeks to come. I am excited to start this campaign and energize more Vermonters to participate in 2023 and beyond.

Sarah Copeland Hanzas was elected secretary of state in 2022 after 18 years as a state legislator. She lives in Bradford with her family.

Image courtesy of state of Vermont

5 thoughts on “Sarah Copeland Hanzas: Understanding how government works will empower Vermonters

  1. Thanks to Rep. Anna Paulina Luna showing the receipts yesterday of how NASS, NASED, DHS, CISA, CIS, EIP, etc. utilize JIRA (private software cloud) to collude and conspire supression and censorship of information. The exposure of the lies and deception continues. The criminals are exposed as well. Everything spoken by the elected ones is tied back to these “private servers” and those partaking in these “meetings.” The agenda and the scripts are exposed and who is behind it all.

  2. any one who “don’t know how to vote” is probably to ignorant of policies they would be voting for if they did know how. It’s not rocket science, you go to the town office with ID proving you are who you say you are and your put on the voter roll. When it’s voting time you go to the polls and check the box. So it seems Sarah you are the one spreading misinformation.

  3. FPF is a left wing hell hole that does not allow conservative thought at all. It is completely one sided and the fact that you even mention them as part of any type of solution shows that you are part of their echo chamber,

    I got kicked off while fighting the bike lanes. FPF only allows misinformation and kicks off anyone who dares tell the truth. It’s looking like you will be as horrible as our last Sec of State. I was trying to find a video I believe was in True North showing testimony from all of the town clerks. They were all testifying that with the mail in ballots. they had no way of detecting fraudulent voting. Even with all this testimony, Condos comes out and says this is the most secure voting method ever! Yeah right. I don’t trust our elections at all.

  4. Re: “This lack of engagement creates a void in Vermont’s democracy, a void that is oftentimes filled with dis- or misinformation, attacking the integrity and transparency of government.”

    Ms. Copeland-Hanzas: While the void (as you call it) leads to ‘attacking the integrity and transparency of government’, does it not also lead to attacks on those who criticize you? Isn’t that what you’re doing in your missive?

    After all, ‘participation’ doesn’t mean always agreeing with your opinion. For example, your reference to Front Porch Forum (FPF), as a call to action, disregards the fact that FPF censors some of those appeals, ostensibly because it too considers disagreements as ‘disinformation’.

    That your position here claims only that those who are disengaged are the problem, that it is devoid of specific instances and any introspection in this regard – that government does no wrong – is a case in point.

    Perhaps you might continue a real-time discussion with us here on True North, one of Vermont’s few, remaining, true civic forums. Please, let we the people offer some feed-back to your ‘boots-on-the-ground’ initiatives.

    What are some of the specific points in the civics curriculum you’re creating for our schoolteachers?

    Will your civics curricula explain why the U.S. is a Constitutional Republic, not a Direct Democracy? … and include the cautions set forth by John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and other Founders?

    What happens when two wolves and a lamb vote on what to have for lunch? Why should the lamb remain engaged in that debate?

    This is a challenge to Vermont’s Secretary of State. Engage your constituency here on TNR, if you truly want to ‘walk the walk’.

  5. There is much to comment on here but, for now I most want to counter your comment about Front Porch Forum.

    FPF is run by liberal authoritarians and should not be receiving any public money. Let me say that again, THEY SHOULD NOT BE RECEIVING ANY PUBLIC MONEY.

    They regularly remove people from the platform for making statements that are offensive to someone. And of course, the woke are always looking to be offended.

    Unless FPF makes it possible for everyone who wants/needs to subscribe (needs because people post all kinds of public meetings) they should be sanctioned themselves. They could allow everyone who wants to receive their posts to do it while at the same time, not allow them to post.

    They are extremely and unduly rigid.

    So Ms Hanzas, in the interest of democracy, your Civic & Engagement Coordinator could start there.

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