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AP embeds in small town Vermont to show how in-person democracy can be civil, productive and friendly

Town Clerk Sandra Lacasse, places a sign outside the town office as polls opens March 5, 2024, for Super Tuesday and when the town holds its annual Town Meeting in Elmore, Vt. AP PHOTO / DAVID GOLDMAN

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An all-format crew stayed in Elmore, Vermont — population 800 — for five days to paint a portrait of small-town democracy in its purest form, following residents with different political views as they came together with civility to debate and vote on issues important to the community in their annual Town Meeting.

The team captured textured details of Vermont life to paint a portrait of democracy that looks rather unfamiliar in today’s politically divided world, when many across the U.S. feel powerless and alienated from their representatives at every level — and especially from those in Washington.

U.S. News journalists in New England used the democracy grant to team up with Trends and Culture and global enterprise to bring together the package, including a long-form story that captured a slice of American politics that few get to see. At a time when so many are frustrated with representative forms of democracy and the feeling that they are distanced from the process, this story serves as a reminder that when people come together in a room to talk out issues that matter to their community, civility and discourse can be productive and friendly.

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