August 2005 Press Releases
Turning Mirrors into Windows: Teaching our Children about Vermont, Citizenship & Democracy
Secretary of State and School Children Celebrate Publication of Vermont History, Facts and Fun
Commission Requires More Education for Vermont Real Estate Professionals
Vermont's Disabled Voters to be Among the First to Vote By Phone
Turning Mirrors into Windows
Teaching our Children about Vermont, Citizenship and Democracy
by Deb Markowitz, Secretary of State
In Vermont we recognize the importance of public education. Indeed, in every community in the state we are in engaged in constant conversation about how to ensure that our schools adequately prepare our children for successful lives.
It is my belief that a good education is not just important for our children, but it is also essential for the health of our communities and for the future of the state. After all, we are relying on our children to be the governors, legislators, selectboard members, and the voters of tomorrow.
There is an old saying that “the purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” (Sydney Harris) That is, through learning about ourselves we can begin to understand the world around us.
In my mind, learning about Vermont – our history, government and people - is the starting point for ensuring that our children grow to be active participants in our democracy. That is why, with the help of educators, historians, geographers, and students we have published an elementary level curriculum, Vermont History, Facts and Fun. In the coming months these curriculum booklets will be distributed to schools across the state.
Vermont History, Facts and Fun is designed to make it easy for Vermont educators to teach our children about Vermont. Interspersed with fun activities is text describing such subjects as how the ancient Abenaki used Vermont to hunt and fish, how the Green Mountain Boys fought to make Vermont an independent republic and then a state, and the history of our state flag and symbols. The booklet also covers Vermont’s geography and facts about our important industries (dairy, maple and skiing) and our people.
While we are excited to be offering these new materials to Vermont schools, we recognize that this curriculum is only the first step in ensuring our children grow into active citizens. To truly turn “mirrors into windows” we need to see history and geography as just the starting point. We need to be committed to integrating civics education into the curriculum at every level.
The goal of civics education is to provide students with a body of knowledge and practical skills that demonstrate how individuals can effectively participate in and have an impact on their community, the state, the nation and the world. Not only must our students understand how our constitutional democracy works in the context of our federalist system, but they need to understand such practical information as how government policies are made and implemented, and how citizens can learn about and have an impact on those decisions. They must learn how our leaders are chosen, and how they are held accountable. Finally, research shows that book learning is not enough. A good civics education must include practical skills to enhance our young people’s ability to effectively participate in their communities and in the political process.
One of the most often quoted description of how American democracy works is the statement by President Lincoln that we have "government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Unless our children understand how government works, and why it matters that they participate in our democracy, we will not be able to sustain Lincoln’s vision. The fact that so few of our young adults choose to vote (only 13% in the 2002 election) and why so many of our graduating seniors do not have even a basic understanding of how they have power to effect the policies of government that effect them is a problem we should not take lightly. We need to join together to ensure that every Vermont student graduates high school with a solid grounding in civics and government.
As President John F. Kennedy said “the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.” Vermont History, Facts and Fun is meant to be a first step in that race.
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Secretary of State and School Children Celebrate
Vermont History, Facts and Fun
Contact: Kathryn Mathieson For Immediate Release
(802) 828-2148 August 29, 2005
Today, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz was joined by Vermont educators and students to celebrate the publication of Vermont History, Facts and Fun, a new curriculum booklet about Vermont’s unique history, culture and geography.
Vermont History, Facts and Fun is being published by the Office of the Secretary of State in an effort to make it easier for Vermont’s educators to teach their students about Vermont. Secretary Markowitz said “The first step in a solid civics education is an understanding of who we are and where we have come from. That’s why it is important for schools to teach our children about Vermont’s history and traditions.”
The festive celebration, held at the Vermont Historical Society Museum in Montpelier, included storytelling, old time music, food and crafts. Vermont Historical Society staff also provided tours of the museum exhibit.
During the presentation Markowitz said, “This wonderful new resource for Vermont schools would not have been possible without the many people who contributed to its preparation and publication.” Markowitz recognized Montpelier High School students, Aleah Starr, Kate Sease and Spencer Rothbell who helped to create the text, games and art work used in the curriculum. Representatives from IBM and Cabot who sponsored the printing of the curriculum received framed copies of the cover art in thanks for their support for the project.
Commission Requires More Education for
Vermont Real Estate Professionals
Real Estate Professionals with Lapsed License May Need to Re-take Exam
Contact: Kathryn Mathieson For Immediate Release
(802) 828-2148 August 15, 2005
Montpelier. Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz today lauded the Real Estate Commission and Vermont Association of Realtors for joining together to promote amendments to the laws governing Real Estate professionals. “The Commission is responsible for protecting the public by regulating real estate practices in Vermont,” said Secretary of State Deb Markowitz. “Part of the Commission’s duty is to make sure that those who are licensed to perform real estate services in this State have the knowledge and skills to do so.”
Markowitz said, “the new real estate rules will offer better protection to the people of Vermont.” “Prior to July 1st, when the new law went into effect, Vermont was one of the few states with very minimal educational requirements for our real estate professionals,” Markowitz said. “Buying a home is quite often the most significant investment any person will make in his or her life. While most of our professionals serve the people of Vermont well, the new law will ensure that every real estate professional has the education and experience required to perform his or her duties competently.”
Commission Chairperson Sam Matthews explained, "These changes were necessary to reflect the reality of a profession that is changing very rapidly. Real estate practice is much more complex than it was a mere decade ago. In the last ten years alone, the laws governing the profession have changed several times, and the exam to become a licensed broker has also been modified to reflect current practices.” Matthews added, “Vermont has traditionally lagged behind other states in its education requirements to become a licensed broker or salesperson.”
The changes are as follows:
The amendments to the law were passed by the Legislature in 2005 and became effective as of July 1st. A newsletter was sent to the approximately 2600 active licensed real estate brokers and salespeople in early summer announcing these changes. The new law may also affect the more than five thousand former real estate professionals whose licenses have expired over the years.
The Director of the Office of Professional Regulation, Christopher Winters acknowledged that not everyone was going to be happy with the new changes. He said, “the new law may come as an unpleasant surprise to some who have let their license lapse and now find that they need to re-take the exam and coursework.” However, Winters applauded the legislature for adopting the new standards. Winters said, “It is in everyone’s best interest to be sure that licensees who are re-entering the profession have brushed up on their skills enough to do the best job possible for their clients. It’s good for business, it’s good for the profession, and most importantly, it’s protective of the public.”
For more information on the requirements to become a licensed salesperson or broker and to find out about the new laws pertaining to real estate practice in Vermont, contact Ted McKnight at 828-3256 or visit the profession’s website at www.vtprofessionals.org.
DISABLED VOTERS TO BE AMONG
THE FIRST TO VOTE BY PHONE
Vermont to Purchase Vote-by-Phone System to Meet Federal Accessibility Requirements
Contact: Kathryn Mathieson For Immediate Release
(802) 828-2148 August 10, 2005
MONTPELIER, VT –Disabled voters in Vermont will be some of the first in the country to use a new vote-by-phone system that will allow them to vote privately and independently for the first time. Secretary of State Deb Markowitz announced today that the state will use vote-by-phone technology in 2006 to ensure equal access to voting for physically-disabled and visually-impaired voters.
Vermont will use the system to meet accessibility requirements established by federal legislation in 2002. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) gives states until January 1, 2006 to provide at least one voting system at each polling place that is disabled-accessible and may be used by visually-impaired voters in private and without help.
“This is the most voter and poll-worker-friendly system we’ve seen,” Markowitz said. “It will allow us to make voting accessible to all of Vermont’s voters, and it will enable our state to fulfill HAVA’s mandates without purchasing expensive equipment that would go unused in many of our communities.”
Vermont will pay $525,000 for the vote-by-phone system and its election management software. The system’s licensing, maintenance and operating costs will be approximately $110,000 annually. Markowitz said “the IVS system will save the State of Vermont several millions of dollars compared with the other accessible voting technologies such as the AutoMark and other touch screen computerized voting systems.”
The IVS vote-by-phone system was chosen by Vermont with input from a variety of individuals and organizations. Steve Pouliot, Executive Director, Vermont Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired said “We were pleased that the Secretary of State office included our Agency and others with various disabilities as they reviewed and assessed the various options available to increase voter access using new technology.” Ed Paquin, the Executive Director of Vermont Protection and Advocacy, concurred. He said, "VP&A represents Vermonters with every kind of disability. We were pleased that Sec. Markowitz and her staff included representatives of people with a variety of disabilities in choosing the new system.”
Vermont is the first state to certify Inspire Vote-by-Phone, a voting system that allows voters to cast their ballots using a regular telephone. The disabled voter simply signs in at his or her designated polling place and asks to vote by phone. Poll workers use a designated telephone to call the system, enter the appropriate access IDs and give the phone to the voter. The system reads the ballot to the voter, who indicates his or her choices by pressing the corresponding numbers on the telephone key pad. The system then generates a paper ballot, scans it and reads it back to the voter so that he or she may verify that the ballot is correct before casting it.
“It was important to me to preserve Vermont’s long-standing tradition of voting by paper ballot,” Markowitz said. “This system will allow us to do that.”
The system was developed in cooperation with a variety of disability groups, including the American Disability Association, the American Council for the Blind, the National Federation for the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind. It has also earned the praise of both national and state disability leaders.
Steve Pouliot, Executive Director, Vermont Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired said “I believe that the system that has been selected; and the way it will be implemented, makes sense for Vermont. We look forward to seeing it at the polling booths, and hope that the access it provides will encourage more people with disabilities to vote independently.” "This is both an accessible voting system as well as a very easy to use system,” said Darren Burton, National Program Associate, Technology, American Foundation for the Blind. “Its ability to allow users to call in ahead of time and both practice and read a sample ballot is a tremendous benefit to blind and visually impaired voters." Margy Holzer, Application Developer Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and a quadriplegic said "This is a huge development for people with a variety of disabilities. I have never been able to vote without help from someone else until I tried the IVS system.”
The Census Bureau estimates the number of disabled Americans at 54 million, including 34 million of voting age. An estimated 83,000 Vermonters who are of voting age live with disabilities; three thousand of them are legally blind.
Inspire Vote-by-Phone is produced by IVS, a voting services company located in Louisville, Kentucky, that specializes in telephone voting.
About Vermont’s Vote-By-Phone System
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) gives states until January 1, 2006 to implement voting systems that are accessible for individuals with disabilities and permit voters who are blind or visually-impaired to cast their votes privately and independently. The vote-by-phone system purchased by the State of Vermont is designed to meet this mandate.
The Inspire Vote-by-Phone system is produced by IVS, a voting services company located in Louisville, Kentucky, that specializes in telephone voting. This vote-by-phone system will allow voters to mark a paper ballot using a regular telephone at the polling place.
How It Works
The voter goes to his or her polling place, signs in and indicates that he or she wishes to use the vote-by-phone system. A poll worker uses a designated telephone to call the system, enters the poll worker and ballot access IDs to bring up the appropriate ballot, then gives the phone to the voter and leaves the voting booth.
The system reads the ballot to the voter, and after the voter makes ballot selections using the telephone key pad, the system prints out a paper ballot that is both human and machine-readable. The paper ballot is automatically scanned and played back to the voter for verification. The voter may decide to cast it or discard it and revote.
All phone calls are answered by a computer system located at a secure location controlled by authorized election officials. The computer will only permit access to the system from phone numbers that have been entered into the system prior to the election, and only after the proper poll worker and ballot access ID numbers have been entered.
The vote-by-phone system will be pre-tested before every election to ensure accurate programming. The system makes no use of the Internet or any other data network, so the system cannot be “hacked.” The only system input comes from DTMF tones, the distinct sounds generated by the telephone when its buttons are pressed.
The vote-by-phone system produces a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast and the process can be monitored by observers.
Preview and Practice Feature
Vermont’s vote-by-phone system permits voters to practice voting on the system prior to Election Day. This will make it easier for voters and election workers on Election Day as it will decrease the amount of time voters will require to cast their ballots on Election Day. Prior to the election, voters will be able to use any touchtone telephone to call into the system and to practice voting. This will allow voters to become familiar with the contests and candidates on their actual ballot.
Try It Out
To try out the system and vote a test ballot:
1. Call 1-888-661-6366
2. When asked for your poll worker ID enter 1234
3. When asked for your ballot access ID enter 101
4. Follow the voting instructions to make ballot selections and to cast a test vote.
Vermont Election Facts