By Rob Roper
S.15, an act related to correcting defective ballots, passed the Vermont Senate on March 18 by a vote of 27-3. The purpose of the legislation is to make election policies and procedures adopted during the Covid pandemic emergency permanent features of Vermont elections.
Analysis: The name of this bill is somewhat misleading. Although the bill does contain a provision allowing for elections officials to notify a voter if there is a correctable problem with a cast ballot and offer an opportunity to correct that ballot, the more important aspects relate to codifying into law the policy of having the Secretary of State’s office mail a “live” ballot to every active voter on the voter checklist without the voter having to request the ballot.
More important than what is in the bill is what is not: any meaningful security measures that would allow election officials to verify that the absentee ballots counted were actually filled out by the persons to whom the vote is being attributed. Other states that conduct elections either primarily or entirely by mail incorporate such safety measures as signature verification (matching the signature on the return envelope with a signature of the voter on file to confirm the identity of the voter), bans on “ballot harvesting” (the controversial practice of campaigns and special interest groups collecting ballots directly from voters, sometime crossing legal lines in order to influence election outcomes), and robust processes for removing no-longer-eligible voters from the rolls. S.15 has none of these or any comparable safeguards.
Point of fact: During testimony before the House and Senate Government Operations Committees town/city clerks and the Vermont Director of Elections admitted that under this system there is virtually no way for vote counters to differentiate fraudulent from valid mail in ballots.
Those voting YES believe that mailing ballots to all voters will reduce barriers to voting and increase voter participation in elections.
Those voting NO believe this is an invitation for voter fraud on small or large scales that cannot be detected, traced, prosecuted, or remedied.
As Recorded in the Senate Journal, Thursday, March 18, 2021: “Thereupon, the bill was read the third time and passed on a roll call, Yeas 27, Nays 3. Senator Clarkson having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows.” (Read the Journal, p. 245 – 246 and view the floor debate on YouTube.)
How They Voted
Becca Balint (D-Windham) – YES
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – YES
Joseph Benning (R-Caledonia) – YES
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – YES
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – YES
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – YES
Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden) – YES
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – YES
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – NO
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – YES
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – YES
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – YES
Russ Ingalls (R-Essex-Orleans) – NO
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – YES
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – YES
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – YES
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – YES
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) – YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – YES
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – YES
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – YES
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – YES
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) – YES
Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) – YES
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – YES
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – YES
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – YES
Joshua Terenzini (D-Rutland) –NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – YES
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – YES