Absentee ballot mishaps occurring ahead of Vermont’s primary election

As concerns grow that expanded vote-by-mail may lead to election confusion in many states, clerks in Vermont’s Orange-1 House district are experiencing high numbers of spoiled ballots, which are disqualified votes under Vermont law.

For mail-in voting to count, voters must return ballots properly. For the Aug. 11 primary in Vermont, voters who requested absentee ballots have to follow instructions carefully. Voters received three party ballots — Democratic, Republican and Progressive — but only one is to be returned to the town clerk filled out, and the other two ballots must be returned blank in a sealed envelope.

According to Williamstown Town Clerk Barbara Graham, voters are making mistakes, which means their ballots are being spoiled and their votes disqualified.

“The ballots are coming back defective and that’s the fault of the voters,” she said. “There are some town clerks that put a note in with every ballot saying ‘please read the instructions.’ And I mean you’ve really got to know what you are doing.”

town of Williamstown

Williamstown Town Clerk Barbara Graham

Graham said Tuesday she’s had about 20 ballots come back spoiled in her small town so far.

“It’s sad that people have voted and their vote is not going to count,” she added.

Another problem clerks are facing, according to Graham, is that ballot request cards were sent out to the assumed addresses of all active registered voters, yet some of those voters no longer reside at the addresses.

“They’ve sent just about anybody that was a registered voter in the last, I don’t know, 10, 12 years, if you are still on the checklist and your name did not get purged for some reason or another, you would get a card,” she said.

Graham said if one of those request cards reached an unintended recipient who decided to dishonestly fill out a request for an election ballot, ballots would be sent to them.

“That’s highly possible,” she said. “Say you bought a home and … you didn’t know what happened to [the former owner], and you turned around and filled it out [and] you sign it that you wanted it, a ballot is going to come back to your residence.”

Graham said she had about 150 request cards returned to her office and she had to check each one to see if that request might have been returned from the residence of someone who moved away or had died.

“You have to be on your toes,” she said. “I’m very fortunate that I live in a smaller community. Pretty much you know when you say a name in town I know who you are.”

The Orange-1 House district is comprised of voters in six towns: Williamstown, Washington, Chelsea, Corinth, Orange, and Vershire. On Aug. 11, voters in those towns will choose two Democrats and two Republicans to face off for  two open seats in the general election in November.

Samantha Lefebvre

Samantha Lefebvre, one of three Republican candidates competing in the primary, said she is out on the campaign trail and hearing voters complain about a variety of absentee ballot mishaps.

“People have relayed to me that they have either received ballot requests to their home for people that no longer live there, or who have passed away … or that they have not received one at all,” she said.

Lefebvre, 25, a resident of Orange, said she has also been hearing about a high numbers of spoiled ballots.

“Either the voters did not sign the outside of the envelope, or they voted on the Democrat and Republican ballot and sent both back,” she said. “Or they sent back the ballot they voted on in the envelope but they did not send back a blank ballot in their right envelope. So you have a lot of people who are, unfortunately, just not voting correctly.”

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos made the decision to expand mail-in voting as a way to reduce in-person voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the Aug. 11 primary, his office sent ballot request cards to all registered voters. For the general election, however, the Secretary of State’s Office is sending ballots to all active voters on the voter checklist, potentially multiplying the amount of voted ballots that will come back spoiled.

Nancy Ertle, the town clerk in Corinth, told True North she can see how problems might occur with the ballot request cards sent by Condos’ office. In particular, she noted that there was a month gap from when the voter list was updated and when the request cards were sent to voters.

“For that whole month, or however long it was, people move and people die and what not,” she said. “If people are challenged on the list then they are sent a card to do an affirmation of residence. So if we get those back and they are not filled out or anything, then we would have to assume that the people have moved and not left a forwarding address with the post office.”

Ertle said if someone obtains one of these cards intended for someone else and wanted to fill it out illegally, she would likely catch it because Corinth has a small population.

“We’re a small enough town that I know who’s here and who isn’t,” she said. “In a larger town, I really don’t know if that could happen or not.”

Ertle is against expanding vote-by-mail as proposed by Condos. “My personal opinion is every voter should be accountable for wanting to vote,” she said.

She added that she expects to see lots of unclaimed and unwanted ballots floating around this year as a result of universal vote by mail. “We have 1,046 voters and our normal amount of people voting is like 265 people. So what’s going to happen with all that extra postage and all that extra paper and all that extra mailing?”

Rejected ballots could skyrocket due to mail-in voting. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission report from the 2016 election states that ballots are often rejected due to missing or unverified signatures, as well as late arrivals.

Election officials are also worried about delays caused by the U.S. Postal Service, which could be overwhelmed by mail-in voting. Such delays could cause election results to be delayed for days or even weeks past Election Day.

In light of these and other concerns, President Donald Trump on Monday said he may use an executive order to halt states that are mailing out ballots to all registered voters. “I have the right to do it,” he said at a press conference, adding that he hasn’t made a decision yet.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Doug Kerr and town of Williamstown

9 thoughts on “Absentee ballot mishaps occurring ahead of Vermont’s primary election

  1. I can’t wait to see how Condos handles the cover up, but wait Jimbo stated
    he’s a 100% confident ……………. Oh yeah !!

    Vermont is in a battle with two deadly viruses, one from the CCP and the
    other from the DNC ” progressives ” killing our state from within !!!

  2. This is all such a planned debacle by the DEMS/Progressives with the idea they will bring out more votes for their candidates. Now it isn’t working for them. I hope they pay the price for their partisan stupidity.
    I read about one women in GA who was angry that the ballot wasn’t a prepaid mailing. Really? She said she couldn’t afford a stamp to return it. What a hoot.
    And then you have NV who wants to be able to count votes up to a week after the election. I guess Trump wasn’t far off of the mark when he said “the results of the election may not be know for months….”. Of course the DEMS said he was really talking about delaying the election for his personal benefit. Scary stuff.
    Can you imagine if Biden becomes President? What a sad state of affairs!

    • Beagle,

      The Dem/Progs thrive on chaos and fear-mongering.

      INDISCRIMINATE, near-criminal, mail-in voting is their latest tactic to obtain even greater command/control of the Vermont government and the national government.

      MOTOR VOTING, another pet project, is another voting travesty devoid of proper documentation.

      All that is instigated and agitated for by CONDOS and associates, as part of serving their masters

      It is no longer live free or die, but wear a mask or else.

      It is command/control from the center, a la the great successes of the USSR, Cuba, Venezuela; the favorites of multi-millionaire Bernie Sanders, who knows how to play the capitalist system to his advantage.

      This time, not to raise the proletariat, but to suppress it, in the name of, creating THE NEW WORLD ORDER, REQUIRED FOR FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE, a la AOC and her cohorts

      The Dem/Progs taking a knee to approve of BLM, is merely THEIR tool to illegally create chaos, as was described in the Shannara Johnson article. READ IT

    • It appears that we wanted to give the folks who didn’t really care about voting, some kind of mandate to vote, even if they are not up to date with chadidates or issues.
      Beyond that in order to help them to vote, we have made it so complicated to vote by mail, that more people votes are not able to be counted – sign here – sign there- put this in one envelope, then another envelope, then sign again
      ………. Good Grief – a dozen ways to lose you intended vote.

      We have encouraged those who have chosen to not vote, while discouraging those fully engaged, knowledgeable, and desiring to be counted.
      What have we gained? Opportunity to grab loose ballots, harvesting ballots, “Hleping the elderly to fill out the ballot.
      Heck of a great idea.. All this while voluntary absentee ballots have always been easily available.

  3. The ballot I got had very clear instructions, It’s a shame that people don’t take the time to read and follow those instructions.

  4. Need we more proof???? This mess represents only one district of how many. How many more are out there??? I’d hate to try to guess, because whatever number I suggest, it will be far too low.

  5. “I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes, and how.” Joe Stalin

  6. Mail in voting: When the result of a proposed program is patently obvious from the outset, e.g. the mass confusion and system overload of the radical changes of mail-in voting, it is folly to assume those results are not foreseen and are intended by the perpetrators. The opportunities for manipulation of the vote outcome are rife.

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