Houda Musanovic of Winooski heard on TV that Vermont polls were opening at 6 a.m. Tuesday. But when she arrived at the Winooski Senior Center at 6:20 a.m., she found the polls closed. Turns out in Winooski, the polls don’t open until 7.
Musanovic wasn’t the only confused wannabe voter — Winooski resident Jennifer Ellis showed up at 6:30 a.m. only to learn she wouldn’t be able to cast her ballot. She, too, had heard on TV that Vermont polls were open early.
Both women said they probably wouldn’t be able to make it back to cast their votes. For Musanovic, a Morocco native who became a U.S. citizen last year, this was going to be her first time voting in a U.S. presidential election. “I was so excited,” she said sadly.
Others who arrived early reported hearing the same thing. Winooski-ite and Democratic political operative Kevin Hayes said he saw a ticker run across the screen on CNN saying Vermont polls were opening at 5 a.m.
Why the confusion? In Vermont, each town decides when to open its polls, so opening times vary widely. Two sites in Bennington open at 5 a.m., for example, and one site in Huntington opens at 6:30. Other polling stations open at 7 or later; many don’t open until 10.
Kathy DeWolfe, Vermont director of elections and campaign finance, admits there is some confusion about poll-opening times. Reached at her desk at 7:45 a.m. on Election Day, DeWolfe said it’s difficult to get the correct information to voters because so many people are tuned in to national media, which isn’t aware of Vermont’s idiosyncratic poll schedule.
And it’s not just the national media that causes confusion. “We have a terrible time with New Hampshire radio,” DeWolfe said. All the polls open at the same time in the Granite State, so Vermonters listening to New Hampshire radio stations might not get the time right.
DeWolfe notes that the correct poll-opening times for each town are posted on the Vermont Secretary of State’s website, and are often available on town websites. Voters can also call their local town offices. “We do everything we can,” she said.