Perhaps you, like many Vermonters, received a brochure in the mail from the Vermont Republican Party urging you to ask for an absentee ballot. It came with a form you can fill out and return — to the Republican Party.
The Vermont Democratic Party plans a similar mailing.
Republicans followed their mailing to my house with an automated phone call from Gov. Jim Douglas, reminding me to fill the form out, just in case I’d shoved it off to the side of the kitchen table underneath five credit card offers and 14 catalogs.
Plenty of Vermonters prefer to vote via absentee – 20 percent in the last presidential election, about 15 percent in 2002.
However, wise and wary voters ought to be aware that if they make their request for a ballot through the parties, the service doesn’t come without a cost. If you fill out the form attached to the mailing, it will go back to the party, which then turns the request over to your town or city clerk.
The advantage for party officials is that they now have your name, and they’ve marked you down as someone who’s inclined toward them. They will also follow up your request with a phone call just to make sure you actually fill out the ballot. They will check with your clerk to see if you’ve returned it. They will become your new best friend. That friendship will be noted in your permanent file.
With a modicum of motivation, you can cut out the middle man and request an absentee ballot directly from your town clerk. You can even fill it out on the spot and hand it back. Or you can wait until Nov. 7 and go to the polls for that good, old American traditional style voting.
It’s sort of like the difference between ordering pizza delivered to your house, or going out to the pizzeria to pick it up yourself. In this case, though, if you order delivery, the pizza place is going to keep you on its list and call you up now and again to remind you that you like pizza.
Maybe you like those kinds of reminders. It raises the question, though — do the 40 percent of Vermont voters who claim they are independent really want to be on a political party’s best-friend list?
— Terri Hallenbeck