Record number of ballots requested for Vt. primary election

Published: Jul. 20, 2020 at 10:30 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2020 at 8:22 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont elections officials say a record number of people have requested ballots ahead of the state's August primary elections, driven in large part by voters desire to steer clear of the polls during a pandemic.

"Simply put, voting by mail is safe, simple and secure," Secretary of State Jim Condos, D-Vermont, said Monday.

Vermonters have embraced early and absentee voting in the past, but never like this. Ahead of this year's primary, election officials sent post cards to every registered voter informing them they could request a ballot in the mail. Condos says the response has been greater than expected.

As of Monday, 108,700 Vermonters had requested ballots for the primary election, exceeding the 107,637 vote total cast in the 2018 primary.

"Part of that is driven by the political situation, but I think part of it is the pandemic," Condos said.

Voters must return their filled out ballots before election day or deliver them to the polls in person on August 11th. Some communities will still have in-person voting.

Christopher Di Mezzo with the Vermont Democratic Party, says Vermonters requesting ballots can give candidates a leg up on how and where to focus their efforts. "Your name appears on a list and that list goes to the secretary of state's office and candidates can access that list and know who requested a ballot. That helps candidates know which voters they should be reaching out to," he said.

Di Mezzo also points out that since ballots are already in the hands of voters, political parties are focusing their energy over several weeks instead of the final three days before the election.

President Trump and many GOP lawmakers around the country have repeatedly said that mail-in ballots will lead to increased fraud in elections. Trump repeated those claims this weekend in a Fox News interview, saying the November election could be “rigged” and that he would not necessarily accept the outcome.

Condos says widespread fraud just doesn't happen. "Nonpartisan studies have shown repeatedly that widespread systemic voter fraud, including vote by mail, just doesn't occur," he said.

There’s still some 22 days before the August primary, so there’s still time for more people to request their ballots. Registered voters will be mailed a ballot for the November general election starting September 18.

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