Jim Condos: Our 2020 elections will rely on a significant increase in by-mail voting

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos.

The current public health crisis has been a serious test for us all, and it’s also testing our democracy and how we respond in a crisis.

Just last week the Supreme Court voted 5-4, along ideological lines, to reject an extension of absentee ballot return deadlines for Wisconsin Primary voters, requiring hundreds of thousands to risk their health by standing in crowded lines at busy polling locations in order to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.

This decision failed the test, but things will be different in Vermont.

COVID-19 has infiltrated and upended so many aspects of our lives – we must make sure it does not also infect our democracy.

state of Vermont

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos

However, holding fair, free and accessible elections while protecting public health during times of social distancing may mean that as Vermonters we need to prepare to vote in an election that’s different from the elections most of us are used to.

Asking voters to congregate at polling places and stand in lines is the opposite of social distancing. We must protect voters and poll workers while preserving the right to vote. No Vermonter should have to choose between their health and casting a ballot. So, there is no doubt in my mind that we will need to make some adjustments.

Here’s the hard part: we have no idea what this pandemic will look like as we approach the August Statewide Primaries and November General Election, or what that will mean for the health of our communities, and how our elections are administered.

We also can’t wait until the final hour to decide: if any changes are to be made to our Vermont elections process, they must be made soon so they can be carried out thoughtfully, carefully, and deliberatively, with the necessary planning and time to deploy.

There is no doubt in my mind, no matter the decision we make, our 2020 elections will rely on a significant increase in by-mail voting. Whether that means having a ballot sent to every registered voter or pushing a much greater number of voters to request a ballot by mail through our existing election procedures, we will need to take the steps necessary to heavily reduce in-person voting at the polls on Election Day.

Fortunately, we are already well-positioned in Vermont.

Vermont’s 45 day, no-excuse early/absentee voting system already allows any registered voter who wishes to vote early by mail to do so. In both the 2016 and 2018 General Elections roughly 30% of Vermont voters voted this way.

Online voter registration and ballot requests already make it so that voters can safely register to vote, request, and track their ballots without risking exposure for themselves, our Town Clerks, or election workers. For those without internet access, a ballot may be requested over the phone or by mail.

We worked with our Legislators, and the Governor’s office, to ensure we have the flexibility to take whatever steps necessary so that that every voter who wishes to vote can do so safely.

Vermont has received $3,000,000 in COVID-19 relief funding from Congress for elections, giving us the resources necessary to successfully implement any necessary changes or expansions to our election procedures.

We will be working hand in hand with engaged stakeholders and partners, including our Town Clerks, who are the front doors to our democracy for Vermonters – I am so thankful for everything they do to administer our elections here in Vermont, and recognize that so many aspects of their jobs have become burdened with added challenges or responsibilities.

No matter what the COVID-19 pandemic situation looks like in August or November, we are doing the work now to make sure that Vermonters can safely exercise their Constitutional right to vote. No one solution is a silver bullet, but as we weigh all of our options with our partners, we know we will find what’s right for Vermont.

Regardless of the exact steps we take, as a voter you can help by making sure your registration information is up to date. Please take a moment to log in to your MyVoterPage at https://mvp.vermont.gov to make sure that both your registration address and your mailing address are correct and updated.

Our democracy must continue to thrive, even in times of crisis. Know that I, as your Secretary of State, won’t settle for anything less than safe, secure, and accessible Vermont elections this year.

Images courtesy of Flickr/Robert Stinnett and state of Vermont

13 thoughts on “Jim Condos: Our 2020 elections will rely on a significant increase in by-mail voting

  1. https://dailycaller.com/2020/04/14/mail-vote-election-trump-democrats-fraud-coronavirus/

    Mail-In Voting For November Election Over Coronavirus Opens Door For Fraud, Experts Say

    As the coronavirus pandemic continues to prevent Americans from performing everyday functions, Democrats are demanding nationwide mail-in voting for the November elections.

    Republicans oppose the idea, arguing that absentee voting leaves the door open to fraud and have accused Democrats of leveraging the pandemic to try and help them at the ballot box.

    While they said that voting-by-mail hasn’t been proven to help Democrats, election experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the process is susceptible to fraud — and pointed to numerous examples.

    A growing chorus of Democrats are demanding that the entire U.S. vote by mail in November because of the coronavirus pandemic, but election experts say this could open the door to rampant fraud and mismanagement.

    The GOP — including the president — stands largely against such a measure. While election experts say there is no proof that mail-in voting helps Democrats, they argue that history has proven that voting by mail is a precarious endeavor.

    “Voter registration rolls are in notoriously bad shape all over the country,” Hans A. von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

    Von Spakovsky said state governments typically do a poor job of cleaning up for their voter rolls by properly taking off names of people who have moved or died and other such management. He said that if you simply mailed every voter a ballot on the voter list, you will ultimately have a large number of people receiving ballots that aren’t theirs.

    Von Spakovsky pointed to Heritage’s voter fraud database, which contains nearly 1,300 cases of voter fraud. Included in this extensive list are “a lot” of absentee ballot fraud cases, he said.

    “Because these are ballots that are voted outside the supervision of election officials, … it makes it easier to do everything from stealing them to pressuring voters on how to vote,” he said, explaining why so many voter fraud cases include absentee ballots.

    There are also notable examples of mail-in votes causing headaches. Regarding the Wisconsin primary election that took place on April 7, the Milwaukee Election Commission — after meeting for the second time in one day — chose to count nearly 400 absentee ballots that contained issues with their postmarks, such as illegible postmarks, ones with no marks at all, and others with no date.

    Von Spakovsky pointed to North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District race in 2018 — the only race in the 2018 midterms that was forced into a redo because of fraud. The North Carolina State Board Of Elections overturned the results after it was determined that a Republican political consultant and others allegedly went door-to-door collecting absentee ballots, filled them out themselves, and even forged signatures.

    “They did all these things with the ballots that they shouldn’t have done because ballots are a valuable commodity,” von Spakovsky said. “When they are sent to people’s homes there’s a chance that things will happen like in that North Carolina race.”

    Oregon — which offers all of their eligible voters a ballot by mail — may serve as a case study for how such a process can be abused.

    An assistant professor of political science at Portland State University, Melody Rose, surveyed Washington County, Oregon. She found that five percent of registered voters admitted that other individuals marked their ballots, and 2.4% reported that another person signed their ballots.

    Mail-in voting “gives candidates or campaigns or political parties the opportunity to go around people’s homes to try and find and collect these ballots,” Spakovksy said.

    Nevertheless, some of the most powerful voices in the Democratic Party are ratcheting up efforts to allow every eligible voter in the U.S. to vote by mail in this November, arguing that such a move is critical to preserving the right to vote while the population adheres to social distancing orders.

    Congressional Democrats demanded that billions of dollars in the last coronavirus relief package be dedicated to the expansion of absentee voting, but were cut by the GOP. Since that time, calls for a nationwide vote-by-mail effort have soared, with Democrats pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make it an integral facet of a future coronavirus relief package.

    Liberal organizations, such as the Center for American Progress, have supported these calls. Even progressive outfits that don’t necessarily focus on voting rights, such as the environmentally-minded Sierra Club and the pro-choice group NARAL, have done the same.

    The campaign received a major endorsement when former First Lady Michelle Obama came out in support for vote-by-mail efforts. She tweeted on Monday that “No American should have to choose between making their voice heard and staying safe.”

    But others say this is naive.

    “They have no idea what they’re asking for, logistically speaking,” Public Interest Legal Foundation spokesman Logan Churchwell told the DCNF.

    “Anyone that’s advocating for all-mail voting has no experience in the broader election system, and odds are they are in a state that doesn’t even have it,” he added. “It’s all in theory to them.”

    The Public Interest Legal Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that was launched to bolster election integrity, and has been behind a number of cases that have unmasked election malfeasance.

    For example, the Public Legal Interest Legal Foundation purchased New Mexico’s statewide voter roll and compared it to a collection of other federal and commercial databases. The group identified registered voters listed who were dead and found examples of people who were registered to vote twice.

    A research brief by the organization found that 28 million mail-in ballots in New Mexico went missing in the past 10 years.

    “The purpose of our brief was to show that if you are going into any kind of automated system of mailing ballots everywhere that you have on file, you’re going to be sending a portion of those ballots to people that are dead, no longer live there, what have you,” Churchwell said.

    To be sure, many Americans across the country participate in the election process by way of absentee voting — but it’s limited in scale.

    Citizens can vote by absentee ballot in every state in the U.S, according to von Spakovsky.

    In two-thirds of the states, you don’t need an excuse — you simply request an absentee ballot and it gets mailed to you, he said. In about a third of states, however, you need an excuse to do — such as being sick, disabled, out of town, etc.

    Under a system being advocated by Pelosi and other Democrats, all registered voters would essentially be mailed an absentee ballot.

    States that practice wide-scale voting by mail are not necessarily deep-blue. Rather, they have sparse populations.

    Utah, a Republican bastion, has nearly shifted entirely to vote-by-mail. On the other hand, New York and other deep-blue, densely populated states have some of the most restrictive absentee balloting rules on the books.

    In fact, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a rising star among national Democrats, recently expressed concern with mail-in voting.

    “It’s a harder system to administer, and obviously it’s a harder system to police writ large,” Cuomo said during a radio interview earlier this month when questioned about the negatives to expanding voting by mail. “People showing up, people actually showing ID, is still the easiest system to assure total integrity.”

    He did, however, allow New Yorkers to vote by mail for the June primary.

    As for a nationwide vote-by-mail process for November, Republicans say it’s a no-go.

    “I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,” President Donald Trump said earlier this month during a White House coronavirus press briefing.

    “It shouldn’t be mail-in voting,” the president continued. “You don’t send it in the mail where people pick up — all sorts of bad things can happen by the time they sign that, if they sign that … by the time it gets in and is tabulated.”

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has also referred to Pelosi’s attempts to make mail-in voting a part of coronavirus assistance as “disgusting.” The California Republican also accused Democrats of pushing for it because they “think that gives you some political benefit.”

    Trump made similar remarks about the consequences of greater access to the ballot, saying in a recent interview that some of the requests Democrats were making would result in a Republican “never” being elected to office again.

    The experts the DCNF spoke to said there is no concrete data indicating that Democrats have an advantage from mail-in voting.

    “I don’t know if it translates into actual help to one party or another,” von Spakovsky told the DCNF, but added that Democrats are under the impression that it helps them.

    Churchwell said: “There’s not enough evidence to say there’s a partisan advantage. There’s no data to support that.”

  2. Get an illegal or anyone that needs “help” to fill out the form and then make sure it gets mailed on time is the key to what the VT socialists want. They may think “we’ll not win” if an honest election.

    Condos and his mentality is corrupt. Have hole for the AgriRepublicans. I’m sure Mitzy Johnson and those D’s Chittenden misfits is hoping.

  3. When town boards went to Condos several years ago complaining that “students” were voting in VT and in their home state and they wanted an investigation, they were pulled up short and told that will never happen.
    Students at UVM, Champlain, St. Mikes and UVM register to vote in Vermont and then vote “yes” in support of school spending and other liberal ballot items. They don’t pay taxes here, reside here only months out of the year, yada, yada, yada…. Vermont residents end up paying for these illicit liberal votes with their hard earned dollars. Remember how UVM students as a joke swung the election that elected Bernie Sanders as mayor? They thought that was a hoot. We have all suffered for that debacle.
    With lack of conviction on this aspect of voting how can we trust that “mail in ballots” will be valid.
    I don’t trust it for a second.

  4. Let-‘s hople all this mail in talk will be obsolete come election time, and we’ll be able to vote in person. Otherwise, Katy bar the door!!!

  5. Mr. Condos and the legislators already are aware of serious issues regarding spoiled ballots and no mechanism to allow notifications or abilities to recast spoiled ballots, (unless you spoiled it at the polls), yet they fight so hard to prevent any serious solutions for fraud like voters with ID.
    As a election worker I have personally observed “coaching” non English speakers and others at polls being registered to vote instantly by telling them if they don’t answer “yes” to each question they can’t vote, (kicking the podium).

    When I question the Board of Voter Registration officials, city election officials and Secretary of State office, you connot contest someone who claims to be who they say or where they live and do anything about it.
    Such a rigged system to keep majority elected.

    What about those potential candidates who can’t leave home or people who won’t open the doors to sign petitions for upcoming deadlines to file as candidates?
    Legislature already meeting in secret fashion from home with no media scrutiny to protect the interests of the people, so I guess I’m not surprised by this article either.

  6. Not a peep of opposition to mail in voting from any Dem/Progs
    They are laughing in their fist to get such a lucky Coronavirus break
    Dem/Prog-friendly folks will scour the nursing homes to “help” old folks vote.
    They will go door to door, ballots in hand, to make sure everyone votes, registered or not, citizen or not, illegal or not, criminal or not.
    Stuff the ballot boxes now, maybe sort it out later, if ever.
    Super duper, veto proof majorities, ready for the taking.
    Never let a good crisis go to waste.

  7. Ballot Harvesting at its finest from “Mr Transparency”…choice of words has a decidedly Freudian ring to it…

  8. Mail-in ballots: Increase the prevalence of communism in VT, plus help prop up the US Postal Service in one fell swoop! A win-win for the Marxist in YOUR family!

  9. Democrats love voting by mail, and any other voting method that increases their chances of winning, or hinders verification of voting integrity. This is because they believe the fewer controls on voting, the more likely it is they will win. And we all know Democrats think they are the only legitimate party, and all political power is rightfully theirs.

  10. Condos is already aware of many instances of voter fraud yet he can’t wait for mail in voter fraud.

    If we want to keep our elections pure we need to fight this tooth and nail

  11. Jim Condos, Our 2020 elections will rely on a significant increase in by-mail voting
    yes, Liberal Democrats ” pipe dream ” !!

    Per Rahm Emanuel, ” never let a serious crisis go to waste ” Condos is leading the
    pack, pass all the foolishness you can even if you don’t need to.

    Did he change the date we vote ?? or just another cart before the horse scenario?

  12. No way!! This is another typical plan by democrats to take over and control the citizens votes. There is already voter fraud in many locations throughout the country and mail-in votes could easily be manipulated. It seems certain politicians are starting early with this promo, but I don’t buy it! Don’t fall for this ploy. There is still plenty of time before the election in November, so don’t start conning us now.

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