Voter oath puts Vermont into a league of its own

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Voter's Oath fascinates me. Our state is one of only three in the nation, along with Alabama and Florida, that has voters take an oath at the time of registration, and our oath is unique:

“You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person.” –Vermont Constitution, Chapter II, Section 42

Although I am not in the business of interpreting the law, to my understanding, this statement has two parts.

The final phrase, often highlighted, that a voter will not sell their vote or otherwise allow someone to coerce them into voting a particular way. And that is important.

But it's that verbose central phrase - “you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same” - that puts Vermont in a league of its own.

Unlike anywhere else in the United States, where a voter is asked to choose a candidate or position that will best serve that individual, think “your vote is your voice.”

When those of us in Vermont exercise the right to vote, we have promised to choose not what or who would bring us personally the most gain, but what we feel is right for the whole of our community. We are asked not to solely use our dispassionate brains, but to lean on our conscience, our sense of morality.

There are certainly situations in which we must use our “voice” to speak up on behalf of others.

Each representative of ours, from Town Meeting representatives and Selectboard members on up to our United States Senators, should also carry this sense of the whole in each decision that they make, with every “aye” or “nay.”

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