As Vermont’s secretary of state and governor continue to discuss a proposal for expanded mail-in voting this election season, some lawmakers and citizens are worried that widespread use of a mail-in system could lead to voter fraud.
The proposal coming from the Secretary of State’s Office is to mail ballots to all registered Vermont voters for the November general election. During previous elections, mail-in ballots have been sent by request only.
The proposal is controversial because a mail-in system lacks the safeguards of in-person voting, and has been linked to ballot-harvesting scandals, including the 2018 congressional race in North Carolina that was overturned by that state’s election board.
At a media briefing last week, Republican Gov. Phil Scott expressed concerns about expanding vote-by-mail.
“At this point in time, I’m there and I have concerns,” he said.
Election watchers have documented a broad range of problems related to voting by mail. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, more than 6 million mail-in ballots went missing in the 2016 election.
“According to the commission’s 2016 report, for example, more mail ballots were misdirected and unaccounted for than the margin of votes between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump,” the Heritage Foundation reported. “She had 2.9 million more votes, yet 6.5 million ballots were misdirected or unaccounted for by the states. In other words, for every vote that Hillary won over the eventual president nationally, more than twice as many mail ballots disappeared or went to the wrong addresses.”
State Rep. Marianna Gamache, R-Swanton, in a recent post on Facebook shared doubts about the need for widespread mail-in voting: “We stand in line at Target, Walmart, Lowes, etc. We can stand in line in November. Say no to mail-in voting. Make this go viral.”
Rep. James Harrison, R-Chittenden, and Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland, also expressed skepticism about expanding vote-by-mail options.
On Tuesday, Harrison told True North that with normal absentee ballot use, the user issues the request to the town clerk for a ballot and there is a clear expectation of whom the ballot comes back from. In contrast, mailing a ballot to every name on the state checklist means many ballots could be lost, disqualified or even stolen.
“When you do all mail-in balloting for everyone, you do not know who’s gonna get back to you,” Harrison said. ” … You don’t necessarily have the ability to compare all the signatures.”
He added it’s not best to make a big policy decision now since the status of the coronavirus is changing daily and there’s little certainty of how things will look in the fall.
One concerned citizen tweeted to Condos that mail-in elections are a bad idea because the voter checklist is “not accurate.”
I love absentee ballots, but if you mail ballots out to those that are dead or have moved how do you ensure that the returned ballots reflect the desires of a discrete registered voter in that jurisdiction? We all know the voter rolls are not accurate.
— Jeremy Reed (@Jtreed08) May 5, 2020
Moreover, in a recent poll of registered voters in Vermont, more than half said election officials can’t verify who is filling out absentee ballots.
Condos nevertheless favors sending ballots to all registered voters as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Compounding the complications for a vote-by-mail system, the United States Postal Service is facing extreme financial hardships and may run out of funds as soon as this summer. Condos has worried about the impact this could have on the election, saying, “I can’t understate how disastrous this could be to our democracy.”