What you need to know to make sure your absentee ballot gets counted

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 6:25 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - More Vermont voters are requesting absentee ballots than ever before. But if you don't cast yours correctly, your vote won't count. Our Christina Guessferd has more on how you can avoid some common mistakes.

"We've discovered quite a few spoiled ballots and other communities, I understand, are having the same problem," said Helen Riehle, the chair of the South Burlington City Council.

It's a serious problem that could significantly impact Vermont's primary election results. Riehle says as she and the rest of the town's Board of Civil Authority begin to sort mailed-in absentee ballots ahead of August 11. the team is seeing two big issues: unsigned certificates...

“We can’t call you back and say, ‘Hey, you forgot to sign it, come on in and sign it,’ because, in essence, they’ve already cast their vote,” Riehle said.

...and missing discarded ballots.

"You think, 'Oh, I'm just going to send in the ballot that I want.' But you have to send in all of them so that we know that you don't vote three times," Riehle said.

If you are one of the more than 137,000 Vermonters who have requested absentee ballots, the packet you receive includes a Democratic, Republican and Progressive ballot; an envelope to return the ballot you cast your votes on, signed and sealed; and another envelope to send back the two ballots you don't fill out.

Your mailed-in vote only counts if:

-You sign the certificate on the voted envelope.

-The voted ballot is sent back in the voted envelope.

-And the unvoted primary ballots are returned in the unvoted envelope.

Otherwise, your ballot is considered defective and won't be counted.

"Breaks my heart but once you send it in, there's nothing we can do," Riehle said.

That said, if you make a mistake before the ballot's in the mailbox, you can get another one from the town clerk in exchange for the spoiled one.

Secretary of State Jim Condos says his office is also concerned some mailed-in votes won't get delivered in time.

"You can't drop it in the mailbox and expect it's going to be there the next day," said Condos, D-Vermont.

All ballots must be in the town clerk's office before it closes on August 10 or to the polling place before 7 p.m. on the day of the election.

"If you don't have your absentee ballot in the mail going back to your town clerk by Tuesday, you need to either bring it to the polling location or to the clerk's office," Condos said.

Condos suggests if you want your voice heard this primary election, mail both those envelopes no later than August 4.

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