Over a decade ago, there was a Vermont Election Law passed because of the turnout from a reconsideration vote on merging the Town of Essex and the Village of Essex Junction. That same law will come into play over the next couple weeks as Essex voters turn to another reconsideration vote on merger.
The law calls for a minimum number of votes be cast for the opposing side of the question which won during the original election. 17 V.S.A. § 2661 (e) reads in part, “A majority vote in favor of reconsideration or rescission of a question voted on by paper or Australian ballot shall not be effective unless the number of votes cast in favor of reconsideration or rescission exceeds two-thirds of the number of votes cast for the prevailing side at the original meeting” unless the voters of the municipality approve a different percentage pursuant to three conditions – which Essex has not done.
The statute was a legislative response to the 2007 revote on merger. In November 2006, the proposed merger passed in a town-wide vote by a tally of 4,376-4,167. As has been the case over the last month, a voter-led petition for a reconsideration vote was submitted, and people went back to the polls in January 2007 – just not nearly as many.
In the reconsideration vote, merger was defeated 2,890-2,703.
“2,890 ‘noes’ in that election overturned the will of 4,376 ‘yeses’ in the original vote, and that was why the legislature said, ‘Wait, we can't have that happen again,’” said Linda Myers who was serving as an Essex representative in the State House at the time of the statute modification.
So what does that mean for the upcoming vote on merger?
For the vote currently taking place by mail and to be concluded at the polls April 13, a ‘yes’ vote for merger would qualify as “in favor of reconsideration” for the statute’s language while a ‘no’ vote would support “the prevailing side at the original meeting.”
Since the prevailing side – the ‘noes’ – received 3,756 votes during the original March 2 meeting, the reconsideration can only be effective and overturn those results if the ‘yeses’ receive at least two-thirds of that 3,756.
Merger can only pass this time around if there are at least 2,479 ‘yes’ votes and there is at least one more ‘yes’ than the total of ‘noes.’