Vt. governor, secretary of state clash over voting by mail

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 5:10 PM EDT
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A debate over how Vermonters should vote in November pits the governor against Vermont's secretary of state. They disagree about voting by mail.

Experts predict a second wave of COVID-19 will hit in the fall, raising concerns about social distancing and contamination at the polls.

Gov. Phil Scott thinks the state should wait until after the August primary to decide if we should vote by mail. But Secretary Jim Condos says the process to create those ballots and get them out to Vermonters is long and the decision must be made soon.

"Our plan is to plan for the worst but hope for the best, but make sure that we keep those underlying goals in mind about preserving every Vermonter's right to vote and protecting the health of our voters, town clerks and election workers," said Condos, D-Vt. Secretary of State.

Condos says there is a lot of planning and logistics that goes into creating the ballots. Contracts with paper and printing companies have to be signed. And with other states also moving in this direction, we need to ensure we will be able to have our ballots in time.

He says if there is a resurgence of the coronavirus in October, it will be too late to send ballots out to the whole state.

"Some of the town clerks are part time. Some have only one or two staff members. Some of the towns might have more but they have more voters, so we're talking about a significant amount of detail work that has to be done to get it right," Condos said.

During his Wednesday press conference, Governor Scott suggested Vermont create plans to print and send out mail-in ballots but not make it mandatory until we have a better idea of how a second wave of the coronavirus may impact voting.

"I just don't understand the need to make the decision today to make a determination whether it is going to be mandatory in November when right now we have the means to move forward with the process and set it into place and then after the primary press go," said Scott, R-Vermont.

The governor says the state received $3 million from the feds to prepare for the general election.

Condos says that's true but it came with strings. If the state breaks contracts and decides to take a different voting approach at the last minute, Condos questions whether the federal money will pay for it.