Voters head to polls in high-interest primary election

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Bennington County voters are making their way to the polls today, part of an election cycle some officials said was marked by increased voter interest.

"I think it's been a pretty active election season so far," said Cassandra Barbeau, Bennington town clerk. "I think there are a few ... local races that are creating a lot of talk."

Specifically, contests for sheriff and state's attorney have drawn voter interest, she said.

For Bennington County sheriff, two candidates are competing in the Democratic primary, incumbent Chad Schmidt and challenger James Gulley Jr. In the Democratic primary for Bennington County state's attorney, incumbent Erica Marthage is facing off against challenger Arnold Gottlieb.

Many lawn signs could be seen around the county Monday afternoon, voicing their support for candidates in local and state races.

Bennington residents will vote at the fire house at 130 River St.; North Bennington residents will cast their ballots at the village trustees' office at 2 Depot St.

"People are talking, and hopefully they'll bring out participation [today] — and in November of course," Barbeau said.

For this particular election, absentee ballots might be a bit higher than usual, she said.

"I've done three [absentee ballots] today," said Julie Weber, Pownal town clerk, when a Banner reported stopped by her office at about 11 a.m. Monday. "So that's 85, so far."

The last primary election, only 303 people came out — out of about 2,500 registered voters, she said.

Weber said she'd "like to think" there will be a good turnout this year.

Pownal voters will cast their ballots at the Pownal Center Fire Department at 2872 North Pownal Road from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

They'll also decide on a local referendum to move the funds in the Pownal School District Bus Sinking Fund - an estimated $115,098.25— to the Pownal Town School District Capital Reserve Fund.

Pownal no longer operates its own school buses. Due to a ruling from the Agency of Education, Williamstown's Dufour Tours was set to replace Pownal's own buses starting the 2016-17 school year, the Banner previously reported.

Dufour is the company used by the rest of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union.

In the town offices in Shaftsbury Monday afternoon, Town Clerk Marlene Hall was a bit busy — but optimistic.

"You see my desk?" she said, gesturing to a desk piled with papers. "[Absentee balloting] — it's going quite well."

She estimated there were about 150 absentee ballots, when there usually would be about 50.

"This one is showing a lot of interest," she said of the election.

Shaftsbury voters will cast their ballots at the fire house at 166 Buck Hill Road from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In the Democratic primary, David Durfee, a Shaftsbury and Mount Anthony Union School Board member, and Tim Scoggins, Shaftsbury Select Board Chairman since 2014, are seeking the House seat being vacated by Rep. Alice Miller, D-Shaftsbury, who is retiring this year at the end of her 11th term. There are no declared Republican or Independent candidates for the seat.

"I think it's going to be a high turnout," Hall said. "I'm glad. I'd like to have a high turnout every time. It's good to vote."

Robin Wilcox, town clerk in Arlington, had a different idea of how the day might go.

"I expect a low turnout," she said. "Just because of the timing."

August is a time of year when many people are gone traveling, she said.

"We don't usually get more than 300 voters for a primary," she said.

Arlington voters will cast their ballots at Arlington Memorial High School at 529 East Arlington Road from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In Manchester, town clerk Anita Sheldon had no strong opinions on Tuesday's turnout. "It all depends on contested races, and how much the candidates are out there," she said.

This year, it's been a bit difficult to find poll workers, because of vacations.

The town has between four and six poll workers a shift for three shifts.

Residents will vote at the town hall at 40 Jeff Williams Way from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

As of Monday afternoon, Manchester had 144 absentee ballots returned. For the 2016 primaries, there were about 137, she said.

"So I guess we're about average," she said.

All polling places in Vermont close at 7 p.m. For a full list of polling places and hours, see the secretary of state's website at https://www.sec.state.vt.us/elections/voters.aspx

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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