Archive for the vermont Category

Ballot Selfies Prevail

Posted in laws, vermont with tags , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2016 by tammyheff
Voting Clipart

Voting Clipart

Yesterday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals said that the New Hampshire law banning a person from displaying a marked ballot reflecting how he or she voted including posting of those images on social media sites violates First Amendment rights of voters. The law carried up to a $1,000 fine. The appellate court determined that the law violates free speech rights protected by the First Amendment. The law was enacted to avoid vote buying and voter intimidation, what it did was spark a controversy in this social media age over the “ballot selfie”. The law, which originated in one form in 1891 was intended to combat voter intimidation and vote buying. It was amended in 1911 to forbid any voter from “allowing his ballot to be seen by any person, with the intention of letting it be known how he is about to vote.” In 2014 New Hampshire amended that statute to read:

No voter shall allow his or her ballot to be seen by any person with the intention of letting it be known how he or she is about to vote or how he or she has voted except as provided in R.S.A. 659:20. This prohibition shall include taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means. 

The appellate court determined that just applying intermediate scrutiny the statute is unconstitutional. Intermediate scrutiny basically means that the statute has to at least be narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest. There is no proof that vote buying or voter intimidation is an actual problem in New Hampshire and there was definitely no proof that posting how you voted on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat was going to cause any voter intimidation or vote buying and most definitely none sufficient to outweigh the First Amendment free speech rights that were being affected by the statute.

The appellate court in upholding the district court’s ruling completed its opinion with the simple adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”. You can read more about this here.

In Vermont there is no law against photographing your ballot, but since there is a law still on the books about publishing how you are going to vote, before you cast your ballot, wait to post that selfie until you have already submitted your ballot.

Vermont’s Universal Pre-K goes into effect

Posted in news, Uncategorized, vermont with tags , , on July 19, 2016 by tammyheff
act166-1

Photo: VT Department of Education

One of the hardest issues for working parents of young children is finding sufficient care for them while parents are working. In our state that problem has been greatly reduced thanks to a new law that just went into effect.

Vermont is the first state in the country to guarantee pre-kindergarten to all its three and four year old citizens. The law, Act 166 was signed into law in 2014 but became effective as of the first of July. Under the law, each town must provide at least 10 hours of high quality pre-kindergarten education to 3 and 4 year olds for 35 weeks per year. The pre-k can be through public school, communities, Head Start or private early education centers. Many communities in Vermont already provide this service, with about one-quarter of the communities putting the new law into effect one year earlier than required.

This is great news for working parents. Under the law, parents can place their 3 and 4 year olds in pre-k programs closer to their jobs making it easier all around for working parents who may have had to forego a pre-k program due to hours and distance from their jobs.

The ten free hours will be economically beneficial to a lot of young, working parents who could not otherwise afford care for their children for the full work day. Attendance in the 3 and 4 year old program is not mandatory although a lot of parents will most likely take advantage of the program. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Vermont has the highest attendance by 4 year olds in pre-school programs.