Campaign Countdown: Vermont secretary of state

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Democratic incumbent Jim Condos and Republican H. Brooke Paige are vying for the job of Vermont secretary of state.

Since his first day in office back in 2011, Jim Condos says his main goal has been improving "customer service" in state government.

"Making sure that Vermonters are getting the service that they need from the state agencies that they deal with," Condos said.

Over the past seven years, he says he's made some major headway. He points out his success in reforming his office from a paper-driven system to almost entirely digital.

"In that process, we've been able to improve efficiency, transparency, the integrity of our system, the accuracy of our systems," he said.

Condos says his office has also made it easier for small businesses to open shop with a new business portal that has shortened the amount of time to register a business from 14 days to 30 minutes.

"Businesses have to spend less time dealing with administrative paperwork issues and more time running their businesses, which is what they should be doing," he said.

If re-elected, Condos says he plans to strengthen the state's new ethics commission and make it easier for Vermonters to challenge their governing bodies, like improving the appeal process.

H. Brooke Paige: Here in Vermont, the problems seem to get talked to death and nothing really gets resolved.
Reporter Taylor Young: Do you think that's a problem in the secretary of state's office now?
H. Brooke Paige: Oh, I surely do.

The retired business owner from Washington, Vermont, says he can better serve Vermonters as secretary of state. He's on the ballot as a Republican but doesn't identify as one. In 2014 and 2016, he ran for governor and attorney general as a Democrat.

"I don't see myself as being a big Democrat or Republican, right or left. I'm more concerned with what's right or wrong," Paige said.

Paige made headlines during the primary election for winning six Republican slots on the ballot including state treasurer, auditor of accounts, attorney general and U.S. House and Senate. He has since handed those "placeholder slots" over to other Republican candidates in order to run for secretary of state.

"Because secretary of state is the one that controls elections," Paige said.

And he says getting elected for multiple seats proves the Vermont election system is flawed.

"It's part of the whole point to get us to closed primaries or better yet, a caucus system," Paige said.

He says eliminating an open primary would allow both parties to choose a candidate they feel is best suited to run in the election and save the state money. He also condemns the state's new automatic voter registration. He says it's too lenient and allows illegitimate Vermonters the right to vote.

"If you are letting three or four people that aren't really qualified in at the same time, that one legitimate vote has been overwhelmed or deluded by the three that aren't," he said.

Condos disagrees.

"The true voter fraud in this country is the denial of an eligible American the right to cast a ballot," Condos said.

Thousands will cast their ballot Nov. 6 to determine who will serve as Vermont's secretary of state.