From the editor: A poll is just a poll, not a vote

By Cynthia Prairie
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Every so often, The Chester Telegraph rolls out a poll to take the pulse of our communities on various issues: bringing a big box store into Chester; what type of restaurants you would like to see move in; cannabis laws etc.

Voters have been respectful in their voting, thoughtful in their comments and have had some fun discussing the issues. But our most recent poll, on whether the Chester Select Board should institute a mask mandate for public buildings, is different.

The board will take up the issue tonight and may even vote on it. So should the Select Board, or you for that matter, take  this poll seriously? One person took it a little too seriously this morning when he voted “No” 12 times within minutes before being caught and ejected along with his votes. Geez. Serious self-control issues.

But if you just look at the raw numbers, it would appear that a majority of Chester residents do not want masks to be mandated. As of 10 a.m. on Dec. 15, when the poll was closed,  226 votes were cast against a mandate; 217 were cast for a mandate; and 3 voted for my favorite category: I have no opinion on the issue.

But, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I am able to pull back the curtain and reveal some minimally interesting stuff.  So let’s take a look.

Of 446 total votes cast, 223 came from Vermont-registered IP addresses. Of those the number of Chester-based IP addresses is smaller. But they must include some IP addresses that are based in New Hampshire. Why? We’ll get to that after you take a look at the handy-dandy chart below.

Where did the votes come from? Aside from the single votes that came from Brazil, Japan, the Netherlands and Germany,  and four that were undetermined and eight that are mysteriously missing, here’s the breakdown of United States votes by state:

StateNo. of Votes
New Hampshire40
New York20
New Jersey, North Dakota & California6 each
Georgia, Florida & Washington State 5 each
Virginia & Tennessee3 each
North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and Oregon2 each
South Carolina, Louisiana, Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii and Utah1 each

While 40 came from New Hampshire IP addresses, some of those should be counted in with Vermont votes because of the way IP addresses are assigned. IP addresses are dependent upon your internet service provider. Sometimes they are spot-on: The majority of IP addresses in Chester are from V-Tel and show up as Chester. But other companies provide Chester internet service that shows up as Claremont, N.H., Ludlow, Ascutney or Springfield.

After spending several hours looking at the numbers and checking IP addresses, I came up with 125 for and 92 against for Chester residents alone. (I double checked, but consider them an approximation. It got late.)

However, when you look at the numbers and the locations, is it fair to reject all votes from out of state or even out of country? Quite a number are likely second homeowners. Don’t they get a say, even if they aren’t here right now? Or should that not matter since, simply put, they are not here at this particular time to live with a mask mandate?

Or could their interest be something else?

There are just too many unasked and unanswered questions about this particular poll.

So in the end, my view on polls? Let’s keep them topical, civil, humorous when appropriate and a point of discussion with neighbors. They are a great way to express yourself — as long as you don’t do it 12 times.

In the end, the poll doesn’t make the decision, and it shouldn’t hold so much power as to sway a government body in making that decision. At least not now.  If you really want to make a difference, make your voice heard at the Select Board meeting, either in person or by Zoom. Here’s the agenda and link.

And remember: Sometimes a poll is just a poll.

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Filed Under: CommentaryTelegraph Editorial

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Tim Roper says:

    Thanks for laying this data out for us, and for running the poll to begin with, Cynthia.