In a question-and-answer session at a press conference Tuesday, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos and chief of staff Eric Covey answered questions about this year’s general election, including questions about ballot mixups being reported all across the state.
During the media briefing held over Zoom, one reporter referenced President Donald Trump’s well-reported complaints about mail-in elections.
“There’s no evidence [of voter fraud],” Condos replied, “[and] he’s shooting from the hip on that stuff. It’s unfortunate but it may be part of a bigger scheme that he’s putting forth about the election process.”
Condos, with the backing of Republican Gov. Phil Scott, made a decision over the summer that the state would automatically send live ballots to every voter on the statewide checklist regardless of any request. The move has already resulted in thousands of wayward ballots getting misdirected to wrong addresses or returned to town clerks’ offices.
“We believe that the true voter fraud that occurs out there is denying any eligible American or Vermonter their right to cast a ballot,” Condos said during the Zoom meeting. “We believe that the more people who vote, the more eligible people who vote, then the stronger our democracy.”
Trump recently listed seven examples of mail-in voter fraud taken from national headlines. These include tens of thousands of ballots being discarded, ballots found in the trash, the counting of ballots a week after elections, and more.
Condos said when it comes to individual households accidentally getting ballots intended for other people — usually the result of people not informing their town clerks when they move — it is unlikely that those would get voted fraudulently, as there is a legal penalty for doing so and most people wouldn’t want to take that risk.
He also explained that once a ballot is submitted, it gets into the data system so another ballot cannot be accepted for that person. An attempt at double-voting in someone’s name will alert the system and trigger an investigation.
“To beat that protection right, somebody would have to know and be sure and be confident enough that they were not only ready to vote somebody else’s ballot, but to know that they were voting the ballot from somebody who would not then subsequently try to vote themselves,” Covey said.
“And like Jim said, our clerks really know our voters well and will alert us to any cases where the voter is marked off the checklist, and then it becomes clear that that voter has in fact voted [for him/herself],” he said.
Town clerks have repeatedly told True North they cannot check most of the signatures that are on the incoming mail-in ballots because comparison signatures are not always on file and to do so would be time consuming. The situation led one clerk to retort, “You’re not gonna know” if mail-in ballot fraud occurs.
Vermonters have been contacting True North and sharing stories of receiving live ballots intended for other voters who have long since moved away.
During the press conference, Condos explained safeguards that go into submitting a ballot.
“The ballot envelope, the certificate envelope, has the name of the voter, their voter number ID that we have on file, as well as a bar code, and that information, when it comes back to the clerk, they will be able to see it,” he said. “Please remember that the boards of civil authorities and the town clerks are the ones who maintain the checklist, and they forward this information onto the secretary of state’s office.”
Condos cited the dangers of the coronavirus to justify his expansion of mail-in voting.
“We had to make this decision months in advance not knowing what path the virus would take,” he said.