Montpelier, Vermont -- October 17, 2008
Vermont by all accounts has a clean election system that would catch any attempt at fraudulent voting. But the state's motor-voter system, in which motor vehicle registration applicants can register to vote, has seen some problems.
Federal law dictates much of the policy on registering voters -- and that includes motor-voter. In Vermont the voter registrations are forwarded from the DMV to the Secretary of State's office -- and then to city and town clerks to be included on the local voter checklist. In some cases, though, it can take months for the name to actually appear on the voter checklist.
Secretary of State Deb Markowitz said, "This isn't a new issue. It takes a long time, sometimes, for that to happen. And before a big election, there will be a backlog."
Markowitz acknowledges one case in which a town clerk turned away a new absentee voter because his registration never arrived. She says it was a mistake -- an isolated incident, not a widespread problem. Lisa Cavasos says her son, Aaron, initially was denied an absentee ballot at the town clerk's office in Colchester. But now she's satisfied with the response she got.
"The town clerk was very responsible, took my phone call, they were more than helpful," she said. "And then I emailed the Secretary of State's office thinking that it would be days if not longer before I heard anything back. And they responded in the same day. Full explanation, and she even outlined the procedures that are in place."
Markowitz says regardless of bureaucratic mistakes or delays, every legal resident of Vermont at least eighteen years old has the right to vote. "Nobody is turned away from the polls in Vermont.," she said. "If a person asks for an absentee ballot and they're not already on the rolls, then the clerk simply sends the voter a registration form along with the ballot. They fill it out when they return the ballot, and all is well. Their vote's counted."
It's counted even if the voter shows up at the polls on election day -- and finds that he or she is not registered. The voter is given an affidavit to fill out, swearing that they're telling the truth -- and they will be allowed to vote. Anyone who lies would be committing a federal felony. All of this to insure that Vermont elections remain fair and clean.
Andy Potter -- WCAX