Vermont town clerks tasked with implementing new vote-by-mail law

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s next general election is a year away, but town and city clerks are already preparing for changes now that the state’s new universal vote-by-mail is the law.

Vermont’s new universal vote-by-mail law signed by Republican Governor Phil Scott Monday is earning high praise from the nation’s top leaders. “I applaud Vermont for passing a bill to make voting by mail more accessible. A more inclusive democracy is a stronger democracy,” Vice President Kamala Harris posted on Twitter.

Secretary of State Jim Condos, D-Vermont, says Progressives, Democrats, and Republicans supported the bill. “Many legislators across different states are -- to be blunt about it -- using conspiracy theories and outright lies to justify restricting the rights of their voters,” he said.

But some are concerned. Donna Kelty has served as Barre Town’s town clerk for the last 32 years and retired last month. She says that out-of-date voter rolls could mean ballots are mailed to people who have moved out of state or have died. “It created a lot of work for many clerks because addresses that were incorrect were returned, which meant that we had to figure out why and get them returned to the correct address,” she said.

Barre Town has 6,300 registered voters, 380 of which are challenged -- meaning they may have married or moved out of state. “But because they have not responded to that letter, we can’t remove them,” Kelty said. She says she would have to wait for two election cycles to remove voters from the checklist.

Condos, however, says there’s a vast network of data points to track whether people have already cast ballots and that is part of a 32-state federal database. “There are many different points we have to follow that individual,” he said. Databases aside, Condos says widespread voter fraud just doesn’t happen and that out of a record-breaking 370,000 ballots cast in November, there were only seven voting irregularities identified. Six were clerical errors and one, he says, was a Vermonter trying to prove a point.

Condos says the new system creates another access point for voters to cast their ballot. “Vermonters should be proud that we passed the largest access in decades. And we’ve shown that we’re a beacon of light and one of the most voter-friendly states in the country,” he said.

The new law also sets up a process for voters to correct their ballots and tasks Condos and his team with exploring the potential to expand vote-by-mail to local and primary elections.

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