August Primary Preparations Reviewed By Vermont’s Secretary Of State
Vermont’s top election official says preparations for the state’s August primary include a new vote-by-mail option.
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, spoke with reporters virtually about the August 11th primary elections, in hopes, he said, of further educating the state’s voters about the process. “We need to acknowledge that we are in extraordinary trying times. The COVID-19 pandemic and health crisis has challenged many aspects of our society and of our lives. Unfortunately our elections are not immune. We have seen the challenges other states have experienced trying to conduct elections while our country is experiencing a highly contagious and deadly disease. Fortunately Vermont is already in an excellent position due to our existing election procedures and laws.”
Condos says in planning for the elections, his key concerns are preserving all Vermonters’ right to vote while protecting the health and safety of all voters, town clerks and election workers. To that end he says this year they are encouraging voters get a mail-in ballot. “For the August primaries the only major change for voters from years past is that we mailed a postcard to every active registered voter which included a tear-off, pre-addressed postage paid ballot request form that voters can use to request an early ballot-by-mail from their town or city clerk. For years voters have been using a number of different ways to request their ballot. This year they have one more optional tool: that prepaid postcard.”
Elections Division Director Will Senning says the postcards that have been sent out are also helping update voter checklists. “It’s performing it’s intended purpose of updating addresses really well. I actually have been pleasantly surprised with the level of updates. Voters contacting us and saying I received the postcard but I’ve moved, please remove me from the Vermont list. We’ve seen a whole lot of that and again that was really one of the key primary purposes of those mailings.”
After a voter makes a request, they will receive three ballots, one for each of the state’s major parties: Democratic, Republican and Progressive. Secretary Condos cautions voters to carefully follow all instructions. “You can only vote one of those three ballots. It’s your choice which primary that you want to vote in. Once you are satisfied with your ballot selections, place that ballot in the certificate envelope. Then place your two other unvoted ballots in the unvoted ballots envelope and seal that envelope. You must return your two unvoted ballots in order for your vote to be counted.”
While Condos says he welcomes the debate over the integrity of voting by mail he says the likelihood of fraud is minimal. “Non-partisan studies have shown repeatedly that widespread voter fraud, including by-mail, just doesn’t occur. Thousands of Vermont voters have been voting early by mail every election for years, all without issue. The true voter fraud is to deny any eligible voter their right to cast a ballot.”
The Vermont primary includes races for Congress, and all five of the state’s top offices: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, state Auditor and Attorney General. There are also numerous primaries in state House and Senate races.
As of Monday morning, there were 74,907 requests for ballots. It can be mailed, hand delivered to the town or city clerk or brought to the polls on Election Day and must be received by the clerk by 7 p.m. on August 11th. Polls open between 5 and 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. for in-person voting on August 11th.