Clerks around Rutland County said they had gotten many requests for absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s primary and saw a steady stream of voters during the day.
They reported the first big election since the pandemic appeared to be going smoothly.
“Everything’s going great,” said Christine Wener, West Rutland’s town clerk.
Wener said voters coming in Tuesday had been respectful about maintaining social distance, using the hand sanitizer stationed at Town Hall entrances and wearing face masks. While there has been some resistance to wearing face masks, Wener said she didn’t see any reluctance to facial coverings on Tuesday.
According to Wener, about 340 absentee ballots had been requested and about 275 had been filled out and returned as of Monday. Usually, West Rutland gets about 40 requests for absentee ballots, Wener said.
“They’re still coming back. As the day goes on, people are dropping them off,” she said.
Wener said it took her and her polling staff hours to confirm all the absentee ballots — a precursor potential delays to confirm all the absentee ballots in the General Election Nov. 3. West Rutland has almost 1,600 registered voters.
In Fair Haven, Town Clerk Suzanne DeChame reported it was “smooth sailing” at the polls.
“I’m very happy with how today has gone with everything that’s going on,” she said.
DeChame said that while absentee voting has been up this year, in-person turnout has also strong — especially for a primary.
She said the major item on voters’ minds was the Slate Valley Unified School District budget, which is on the ballot for a third time after failing in March and June.
Overall, she said people have been wearing masks and observing social distancing guidelines. Those who chose not to wear a mask or could not wear one for health reasons were able to vote under a tent set up outside the polling place.
“It’s been great all day long,” she said.
Two people walked by Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland County, and Republican Senate hopeful Josh Terenzini as they held signs outside Godnick Adult Center, one of the city’s four polling places, late in the morning.
“This is what we would’ve called busy today,” Collamore said. “We’ve been to all four city locations and the town — not a lot of people out today.”
The duo are uncontested in their primary but, Collamore said, “People like to see you.”
Across town at Calvary Bible Church, Rep. William Notte, D-Rutland City, also was letting people see him despite the lack of a primary challenge. A voter leaving the building commented on Notte wearing a suit and tie in the sweltering sun and high humidity. Notte insisted it didn’t bother him in spite of the sweat pouring off his face.
A voter passing by city polling places might have been momentarily confused as to which election it was by a sign advertising Kam Johnston as a candidate for mayor, alderman and city assessor — positions Johnston runs for regularly. Notte said he encountered Johnston putting out the signs, and the perennial candidate said he was working on name recognition.
Clarendon’s town clerk, Gloria Menard, said she had responded to about 460 absentee ballot requests and, as of Tuesday, about 355 had been returned. Clarendon has about 2,020 registered voters.
Even with all the ballots being mailed in, the town offices saw a stream of voters.
“They’ve been spaced out good, too, so it’s not like they’re crowded in. We can only have so many people,” she said.
Menard said she hadn’t really heard any concerns raised about the unusual nature of voting during a pandemic with poll workers all wearing masks and sitting far apart from each other. Clarendon required that voters wear face masks, and Menard pointed out they had masks that could be provided for voters who didn’t have one, as well as hand sanitizer and wipes readily available.
Voters filled out their ballots on the second floor at the town offices in Wallingford. Town Clerk Julie Sharon said in addition to the people coming in and out, about 500 absentee ballots had been processed by about 1:45 p.m. Wallingford has a little more than 1,500 voters.
Sharon said the turnout was stronger than usual for a primary.
There were more volunteers to work at the polling station than Sharon needed. She said she usually asks volunteers to put in three-hour shifts, but on Tuesday, she divided the day to two 2-hour shifts and two 90-minute shifts to reduce the amount of time each volunteer had to spend continually wearing a mask.
In Pittsford, the flow of voters was fairly steady before the lunch lull, said Helen McKinlay, the town clerk and treasurer.
Pittsford was offering drive-thru voting at the Town Office on Plains Road. McKinlay said about 200 of the 500 who had voted prior to noon were in-person — the rest voting early or absentee.
“We have people on the entrance side where they get checked off the checklist, get their ballots and proceed around to the back to park and vote. And then they go out the exit where they can deposit their ballot into the ballot box,” she said. “It’s working beautiful, no hiccups.”
She said everyone was wearing masks and following COVID-19 safety measures.
Sue Gage, town clerk and treasurer of Brandon, said drive-through voting also was going well at Neshobe Elementary School. She said 768 voters returned absentee ballots with relatively few, 110, coming to vote in-person. This was prior to noon.
“Everyone is complying with masks,” she said. We have a wonderful, supportive community.”
Gage said she was expecting fewer people to physically show up at the polls, and noted the outdoor temperature was quite high.
The National Weather Service posted a heat advisory for the area until 7 p.m. and predicted highs during the day of 91 degrees.