Jim Condos: Safe and secure Vermont elections

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

Many of us love going to the polls on Election Day. Joining in-person with our friends, family, and neighbors to participate in the civic process is something I look forward to every election year.

As Vermont’s Chief Election Official, it is my responsibility to ensure we can all safely exercise our sacred right to vote.

Photo courtesy of state of Vermont

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos

My office’s planning for the 2020 elections during COVID-19 has been driven by two unwavering goals: preserving every Vermont voter’s right to vote, and protecting the health and safety of voters, Town Clerks and election workers.

This is why, right now, we are mailing a ballot to every active, registered voter. For the August primary, Vermonters responded overwhelmingly setting a new record voter turnout. The majority of those votes were cast by mail.

Voting by mail, early in-person, and in low numbers at the polls on Election Day, was conducted safely and securely.

Relying on the existing absentee ballot request process for the November general election could not have the same result. General Election turnout is typically double that of the primary. Even now, not knowing what course the virus will take in the weeks and months ahead, we cannot take any risks. The consequences of failing to act; high volume turnout at cramped polling locations during cold November weather, or voters electing to stay home, are far too high.

No voter should have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We do have a safe, secure and accessible solution available to us.

To those skeptical of voting by mail, I welcome the skepticism. We should all care deeply about the integrity of our elections. I only ask that people look to the facts and the evidence, and not secondhand anecdotes, baseless claims and rhetoric.

Election integrity and voter fraud: fortunately, voter fraud is exceedingly rare. Still, we have safeguards in place to prevent it, and to detect those rare cases if they happen.

For instance, Vermont has severe criminal penalties for impersonating a voter, or for voting more than once. All early or by-mail ballots must be submitted in the certificate envelope, which must be signed by the voter under the penalties of perjury that they are who they say they are, and that they haven’t voted more than once. Risking potential jail time to try and change an election by one vote isn’t something most people would think is worth it.

When a ballot is received by the Clerk, early by mail or in-person at the polls, that voter is checked off the checklist as having voted. If another ballot is submitted under their name, the Clerk will know, and an investigation can be triggered immediately.

Our election management system allows the Clerks to see if a voter has moved, and their voting history follows them. Again, if they try to vote more than once, the system will know, the Clerks will know, and we will know.

Clerks know their voters – they will notify us of any suspicious activity, which we take incredibly seriously.

The voter checklist: no voter checklist in the country is free from some inaccurate data. Our election management system, and the implementation of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles has significantly improved the quality of data on the voter checklist. In fact, Vermont is considered to have one of the more accurate voter checklists.

As mailed ballots begin to arrive in voters’ mailboxes, inevitably some will have been sent to voters no longer living at the address, who did not update their voter registration information since moving. You may even see friends and neighbors of yours drawing conclusions about these ballots on social media that do not reflect the full picture. Let’s be clear: this is not proof of fraud unless someone votes a ballot that is not their own.

As mentioned above, this is incredibly unlikely, and the maintained record of where that ballot was sent means in the rare case someone commits felony fraud, it can be investigated and prosecuted.

Ballot harvesting: there is much misplaced rhetoric about voters receiving assistance with the return of their voted ballot. In practice, this is often a relative, neighbor, or friend helping a homebound voter get their voted ballot to the Clerk so that their vote can be counted. The boogeyman often brought up is droves of political operatives sweeping into our communities, going door to door to amass piles of ballots. While farfetched, I have ordered that for this year, candidates on the ballot, or their staff members, cannot collect ballots from voters. We have heard the concerns and have responded prohibiting this activity.

The Town and City Clerks are our election superheroes on the ground. They are sworn election officials, who take the conduct of our Vermont elections incredibly seriously. Every ballot that comes in to be counted is received by the Clerk or their sworn in election workers.

Unlike many other states, Vermont is in a unique position to be able to conduct the November election in this safe and secure manner. Our existing vote by mail procedures put us in position to adapt quickly, and our track record of expert elections administration should inspire confidence. After the 2016 general election, Vermont’s election administration was ranked 1st in the country by the MIT Election Data and Science Lab’s Election Performance Index.

The 2020 August Primary showcased the resiliency of Vermont voters and election workers. We should all be proud. However you decide to cast your ballot in the November General Election this year, you should be confident in the safety, security and integrity of the safe voting option you have chosen.

Image courtesy of TNR

19 thoughts on “Jim Condos: Safe and secure Vermont elections

  1. Hopefully VT will have the good sense to vote H. Brooke Paige and VT can finally be done with Condos the crook – watch that door Jimmy.

  2. When dealing with and trying to understand the Liberal Vermont politician, these words by Thomas Sowell come to mind: “It is futile to discuss facts or analysis with someone who is enjoying moral superiority though their own ignorance.“ And I would add, their own contribution to the cause!

  3. ……and let us not forget the excuse they used to force the mass mailed ballot scheme on us in the first place. The point was to keep people safe by not having to come to the polls in person, something that could easily have been done, reliably and securely with the time tested absentee ballot process.

    By allowing vote harvesters, the government has given permission to any number of people to go door to door asking for/collecting ballots. Does this seem like a reasonable way keep people safe from the scourge of Covid-19 or ballots safe from the scourge of ne’er do wells? One already (asymptomatic or full blown) infected harvester could easily introduce the virus to the households they visit and another harvester could pick it up and take it further. Strangers, going to thousands of households, uninvited, seems like an excellent way to make sure that everyone can exercise their right to contract the Covid-19 virus. Did anyone consult with Dr. Levine regarding the safety of vote harvesting? If so, what did he say? If not, why not, he is consulted on every other aspect of our lives?

  4. Mmm my husband died in Oct 2004. it will be 16 yrs ago next month. and guess what he got a mail in ballot. !!! Now I know he didn’t ask for one so how come he got one??? Can you tell me Condos !!! I would like a answer to that !! I know for a fact that my husbands name isn’t listed on the voters list. I checked on that.!!! . Well they do say democrats aren’t too bright, guess it’s true right Condos !!!
    Condos I will fore fill my right to vote in person and you know what you can do with your mail in ballots.

    • Hmmm. My wife, who votes Republican for the most part, sent in her card a while ago requesting a mail-in ballot and, as of this writing, hasn’t received it yet…. and she’s still alive and living here in Vermont.

      What worries me, too, is what happens when trusting Vermonters send in their mail-in ballots. Is Sec. of State Condos going to personally guaranty all votes get through the mail and are counted properly?

      Don’t make me laugh, my lips are chapped.

      • Come to think about it, I’m a registered voter (an independent) and, while I didn’t request one, I haven’t received a mail-in ballot either. I guess there’s still time.

        My advice: wear your masks and vote personally on election day.

  5. Jim Condos-The Election Music Man,

    In the movie “The Music Man” the fast talking musical instrument salesman Professor Harold Hill arrives in River City with his plan to sell every parent musical instruments, uniforms, “the works” – to save their kids from the evils of gambling, pool and vice with the pitch that having his line of musical products they will magically be accomplished musicians and that their involvement in the will save the town’s children from impending doom. Remember the song “Trouble in River City ?” In reality Harold Hill is a con man, who poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to naïve townsfolk, promising to train the members of the new band, but Harold is no musician and plans to skip town without giving any music lessons or organizing a boy’s band.

    I the Vermont version: the former Certs breath mint salesman, Secretary of State Jim Condos is our “star” who sells the State Legislature that the novel virus that has arrived will explode into a plague that will sweep the state infecting hundreds of thousands and killing thousands. He convinces them to suspend much of the state’s election laws to allow him to temporarily change procedures to allow Election to be held with accommodations to prevent the spread of the dreaded virus.

    The Legislature buys Jimmy’s pitch and enacts Act 92, giving him almost unbridled control over the Primary and General Election process – with two significant safeguards: 1) that any changes must first be presented to Vermont’s Governor Scott for his “consultation and agreement” before they may be implemented and 2) that, if the virus reaches epidemic proportions in Vermont and, Secretary Condos and Governor Scott decide that the General Election must include a “Vote by Mail” mass-mailing of ballots to every registered voter – that the ballots will be sent out by the town clerks, the election officials who are most familiar with the townspeople who will be receiving the ballots and return them.

    Shortly after the passage of Act 92, Secretary Condos becomes frustrated by Governor Scott’s desire to wait and see if the use of masks, social distancing and disinfection during the Primary which will be conducted in-person with the promotion of early and absentee voting – will be sufficient to protect everyone involved in the election process. Condos, who has longed wanted to move Vermont to a Vote by Mail mass-mailing election process wasn’t having it and quickly returned to the Legislature insisting that they remove the Governor from the decision process requiring Condos to merely advise the Governor of his plans without the former requirement of agreement.
    The Primary Election went off without any health related problems, however procedural troubles flourished, most notably over 6,000 ballots were rejected as “defective” chiefly because voters new to the absentee process failed to return unvoted ballots – an arcane requirement intended to prevent election fraud that might occur if blank ballots were not turned in ! This problem had been anticipated by Condos and his election team, they could have easily have suspended that rule to prevent those votes from being suppressed on a technicality.

    Condos recently announced that he has decided to exceed his authority by shipping the Vote by Mail mass-mailing ballots to a Massachusetts mail processor to be addressed, stuffed with one of over 275 different ballots and then mailed out – instead shipping them directly to the local Town and City Clerks for mailing. There are a passel of problems this demonstration of arrogance will create including: ballots being lost in the mail as they travel through Massachusetts and New Hampshire instead of being mailed from local post offices to voters in the same towns, the wrong ballots being sent to voters and ballots being sent to individuals and addresses that are not qualified to receive them. Over 500,000 ballots will be circulating throughout the state with little or no security over who winds up with them,
    Condos, in the ultimate example of lack of transparency, has refused to reveal what company has been contracted to process the ballots – creating a fluffy of speculation as to the propriety and security of the vendor.
    Condos claims that he has robust security protocols in place to prevent fraud – this is sheer fantasy, in fact there are none beyond the go “od sense and diligence of the town election officials.
    The “severe criminal penalties” in most instances are “no more than $50, $100 or $500” and for a couple of offences $1,000 BUT that assumes that the perpetrators are identified and prosecuted – “fat chance” since the culprits will be anonymous sneaks grabbing ballots from mailboxes, nursing homes and apartment building lobbies, filling out the purloined ballots and placing them into the mail. The only activity that garners the offender any real jail time is “§ 2011. Perjury before board making check list = A person who knowingly swears falsely to a fact or matter which may be the subject of inquiry by the board of civil authority in revising the check list as provided in this title shall be guilty of perjury and imprisoned not more than fifteen years and fined not more than $1,000.00, or both.” Sadly, Secretary Condos doesn’t believe any fraud exists, so we can be certain he won’t be looking for any !

    While Condos brags about his foiling and intrigue over Vote Harvesting, his solution has actually emboldened partisan and advocacy groups to send out paid and volunteer canvassers across the countryside collecting ballots and even assisting reticent and reluctant to fill out their ballots for the “right” candidates. Condos informs “I have ordered that for this year, candidates on the ballot, or their staff members, cannot collect ballots from voters. We have heard the concerns and have responded prohibiting this activity.” But this prohibition is far less than it seems, since the candidates and their staffs can go out and help collect ballots in districts where they are not on that area’s ballots. A candidate for House district #1 is not prohibited from helping his fellow representative in House district #2 by going door to door harvesting ballots. In fact, only statewide candidates, whose names appear on every ballot, are prohibited from engaging in harvesting.
    The worst problem with all of this Vote by Mail chaos is the fact that Vermont has no data base for town election officials to use to authenticate the ballots that arrive by mail. No signature samples to compare to the signature on the security envelope, no personal information required that might prevent fraudulent submissions – date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name. partial SSI or Driver’s License numbers, etc. OR the gold standard used in many states – Voter ID with unique ID numbers.
    I could continue but I am sure I have made my point and demonstrated the depth and width of the pending election troubles, so I’ll leave with this parting thought – “What happens if you have decided that it is beat to vote in-person and you go to the polling place and are informed that you have already voted by mail ?” Will you be turned away ? Will you be accused of attempting voter fraud (remember Jim’s dinky fines) ? Even if you are allowed to vote, how about that “other” vote – it has already been opened, anonymized (separated from the security envelope) and counted ?

    If you agree that the coming perfect storm of an ocean of ballots floating around, partisans roaming the countryside raking up harvested ballots and Election Officials left with no tools to authenticate the valid ballots is an offense against the purity of our election process – for heaven’s sake punish the arrogance of the creator of this Vote by Mail mass-mailing election mayhem by voting for the Secretary of State Candidate who fought to prevent this chaos from happening and send Jim Condos, Vermont’s own “Music Man” into retirement !

    H. Brooke Paige
    Republican Candidate for Vermont’s Secretary of State

    • H. Brooke Paige has presented an excellent accounting of how Vermont arrived at all registered voters in Vermont receiving a ballot in the mail whether they chose it or not. I heard on the news that only 8 states are sending ballots to all registered voters. Most of the 8 states are in the western part of the U.S. Vermont is the lone state in the northeast doing this. Why? Vt. has a low positivity rate of infections. I watched Face the Nation and Meet the Press over the weekend and people were warned not to trust their ballots to the mail but to return their ballots in person on Nov.3 to be sure that their ballots arrived on time and were not disqualified due to voter’s error. I have not received my ballot yet and this is causing me anxiety . I blame Jim Condos for this anxiety because he is forcing me to participate in a process I did not approve of.

      • If you do not receive ballot can go to polling station and vote in person per normal. If a ballot was sent but not received must sign off on not receiving it is all.

  6. I can’t shake the feeling that if the Democrats like the mail-in scheme it’s because it will benefit them, one way or another, and I am firmly convinced that Mr. Condos knows it.

  7. Guy Page has done a lot of work to get the opinions of Town Clerks regarding mail-in voting.
    Remember, many of them are good Dem/Progs
    If their party elite wants mail-in, they likely would not talk against it.

    There are about 480,000 registered voters in Vermont, and in the 2016 presidential election year, which had a high turnout, just 67% of registered voters cast ballots.
    That means the Condos, FULL SPEED AHEAD, mail-in scheme, would lead to about 160,000 unclaimed or unwanted ballots.
    Many of them would be just floating around, for any unscrupulous, self-serving actors, such as Dem/Prog-handmaiden VPIRG, to collect, fill out, and mail in.
    If that is not bad enough, just read this.

    Condos would not know if a fraud would occur, and neither would the Town Clerks.
    Condos can say, with a blank face, “fraud is very rare”, because only the most egregious fraud cases end up in court.

    In Vermont’s case, we are talking about SYSTEMIC fraud, which exists, because the system database is flawed from the get-go.
    Condos and Town Clerks know, as documented by Guy Page:

    1) The Vermont voter lists are riddled with names of people who left Vermont, or have died, according to interviewed Town Clerks
    2) There likely are great deficiencies regarding up-to-date photo IDs, copies of birth certificates, and copies of citizen papers
    3) Much of that documentation likely does not even exist in the Town Clerk files

    Condos, a Dem/Prog party fixture, acts as if he does not know, or as if it is not a problem.
    That my friends is a fraud, right there, because CONDOS DOES KNOW!

    Condos wants to INDISCRIMINATELY MASS mail ballots to EVERYONE on the voter lists, whether they want it or not, whether they want to vote to not, whether they belong on a list or not, whether they are properly documented or not.
    That my friends is a fraud, right there, because CONDOS IS A BULL IN A CHINA SHOP, EAGER TO PLEASE HIS HANDLERS

    Condos knows about these corrupted lists and the document deficiencies, as do the Town Clerks.
    He calls his mail-in scheme “universal”, as if calling it “universal” makes it A-OK; sort of like “universal” health care. It has a nice “ring” to it.
    All this is a highly deceptive/fraudulent charade. Few are asking the hard questions. Those who do, get drowned out.

    When will sane, REAL Vermonters finally sound off about this travesty and malfeasance?
    When will the RESPONSIBLE Vermont Media, defenders of the faith, wake up and show a conscience?

    Sending out postcards to all registered voters, as suggested by some Town Clerks and Sen. Benning, is a great idea.
    The cards would advise/remind voters to REQUEST a regular absentee ballot, in case they are afraid to vote in NOVEMBER, MORE THAN FIVE MONTHS, (JUNE, JULY, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER), IN THE FUTURE!!!

    All Town Clerks already are highly familiar with the absentee ballot process. There would be: No learning curve; No excuses; No fuss; No muss.
    INDISCRIMINATE mail-in voting has been on the Dem/Prog agenda for years.
    Here comes along a golden opportunity to get it: THE OVERBLOWN VIRUS SCARE

    NOTE: TSA and all airlines require a photo ID before they check you in, and before they are allow on board.
    Voting is far more important than taking an airline trip.

    Requiring recent photo IDs, etc., is not voter suppression. It is called PRUDENCE.
    The PAPER TRAIL is not just the ballot, but also the copies of valid/up-to-date documents on file at Town Clerk’s offices, such as:

    1) A photo ID, and
    2) A copy of Citizen Papers (which likely has an old photograph), and
    3) A copy of a Birth Certificate.

    IF IN-PERSON VOTING, RECENT PHOTO ID, AND PROOF OF RESIDENCE (such as a property/school tax bill/driver’s license/Post Office address), MUST BE PRESENTED BEFORE VOTING

    Condos will mail blank ballots to all registered voters, including those in nursing homes.
    The old people likely will be visited by nurses to help fill out the ballots
    On this side are all the evil Trump people.
    On that side are the nice Dem/Progs who make sure our nursing home gets the subsidies we deserve.
    The nurses sort the ballots.
    As pre-arranged, a VPIRG person shows up to pick up the ballots.
    Any Trump ballots likely will be misplaced, the others are mailed to Town Clerks.
    By the time all this, and much more, comes to the surface, the “elections” will be over and done with.

  8. Citizen ID is only one metric on the Census form. As Steve McKenzie and Tom Sullivan point out, it is important to perform DUE DILIGENCE, which reveals at least 5 DECADES of Citizen ID on the form, and as far back as the EARLY 1800s!!
    It is totally disingenuous for Donovan, a lawyer who knows about due diligence, to be grandstanding about this issue with Mintner in the supporting cast. Just as I do, they know the facts as well.
    Here is a brouhaha of voting irregularities in Victory, Vermont
    Registered, 84
    Cast in 2016, 78
    Absentees, 41
    In Person, 36
    Damaged ballot, 1
    Removed AFTER lawsuit, 11
    11/84 = 13%
    Total voters registered in Vermont, 450,000
    13% is more than 50,000
    It is likely anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 registered voters should not be on any voter list in Vermont.
    For Condos to say all is ok in Vermont is not supported by the facts, i.e., fake news.

  9. After a 3-year vetting period in Rotterdam, I finally came to the US in 1955, was in the US Army from 1956-1959, became a US citizen in 1962, lived in Connecticut until 1990.
    I registered to vote in Hartford, VT, in 1990.
    I had to show to the Town Clerk my naturalization certificate and my birth certificate, which was in Dutch, so I wrote a translation.
    The Town Clerk made copies, and said you are registered.
    At the time, I thought this was standard procedure for all towns in Vermont.
    Is that still true?
    If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know.
    Condos should WELCOME federal marshals at voting places.
    That way they can check if each voter has the proper documents on file, BEFORE the voting takes place.
    Apparently, even in Vermont, there have been significant irregularities in the recent past, as revealed by court cases.
    It likely is just the tip of the iceberg.
    To keep on SAYING all is well and proper, does not make it so.

  10. Re: “Our election management system allows the Clerks to see if a voter has moved, and their voting history follows them. Again, if they try to vote more than once, the system will know, the Clerks will know, and we will know.”

    Please explain how the ‘management system’ works. How does a Town Clerk know, for example, if an out-of-State student at UVM or Middlebury College voted in Vermont and not in their home State too? How does the Town Clerk know if a person who moved out-of-State didn’t vote in Vermont and in their new town of residence?

    And will these mail-in ballots be counted in a timely fashion? Or will it take several days or weeks after the election to count them all, let alone determine if they are legitimate?

  11. Personally, I have no problem with absentee ballots but have a serious problem with mail in voting. Jim Condos has parsed his words carefully, stating that no candidate or a candidate staff member may harvest ballots. To be sure, VPIRG and several other lobbyists will provide this service.
    Thanks to Jim’s decision to mail out ballots without the advice and consent of the administration, we already see instances of fraud and I can assure you that the forthcoming election results will be litigated (at taxpayer expense) for months and end at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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