This commentary is by Nancy Gassett, of Vernon. She is a candidate for state House in the Windham-1 district.
For those of you who may not know, the Nov. 8 general election ballots are being mailed to all individual voters on all Vermont city and town voter checklists under the control of the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office.
Vermont town clerks used to have control of the general election ballots, mailing some to those requesting absentee ballots and military ballots. The majority of ballots were held by town clerks for use by voters in individual cities and towns as they came out to their polling places on Election Day to cast their votes.
The Vermont election system was remade in May of 2021. The Vermont Legislature voted to make permanent the all-mail election system that was used in Vermont during the Covid Emergency. This election remake was voted on through Bill S.15, and passed with no safeguards, security measures or voter IDs.
An amendment to Bill S.15 was proposed in May of 2021 to put security measures in place for Vermont’s all-mail ballot system. Town clerks and the Vermont director of elections testified there would be no way to police fraud to determine if a ballot was filled out and returned by the appropriate voter. The Vermont legislators voted down the proposed security measures, citing the amendment would delay the implementation of the all-mail ballot system in Vermont.
In spite of the testimony of those who work directly on Vermont’s elections and the problems that arose as the all-mail election system was first used in the general election of 2020, the Vermont Legislature hurriedly pushed through making the emergency voting measures permanent.
The general election ballots for Nov. 8, 2022, were mailed out approximately three weeks ago. Due to the reports of extra ballots and/or ballots mailed to persons at wrong addresses, the Vermont GOP has instituted an Excess Ballot Reporting System on its website.
Vermont town clerks are the persons who work most directly on voter checklists. Despite their best efforts to purge their voter checklists, there will always be a percentage of voters on their voter rolls that have not met the statutory requirements to be removed. This remains an unaddressed problem with the implementation of the Vermont all-mail ballot system as all voters on all voter checklists throughout Vermont are mailed ballots.
The Vermont Legislature’s remake of Vermont’s election system was added to the previously implemented state mandate to use voting tabulator machines to count election votes. Before the voting tabulator machines, paper ballots were counted in many cases by Vermont citizens in their own towns. Many Vermont voters do not trust machines to count their votes. If allowed, they would choose to eliminate machines from the Vermont vote counting process.
Vermont’s election system allows same-day voter registrations, DMV voter registrations, online voter registrations and voter registrations solicited by those other than election officials. Many Vermonters are asking what safeguards are there in place to stop non-citizens from registering to vote. Both the United States and Vermont state constitutions declare that United States citizenship is a requirement for a person to vote.
What used to be an “Election Day” in Vermont has now been changed to more than an “Election Month” as the statewide all-mail ballots are received approximately 40 days before the actual designated Election Day in November.
Another questionable practice added recently is the use of outside, unattended ballot boxes for the 24-hour dropping off of completed election ballots. There used to be a “chain of custody” requirement for election ballots. That has been erased.
Vermont legislators voted down a bill in June 2020 to “prohibit ballot harvesting.” This controversial practice allows campaign operatives/activists to collect election ballots from voters and has at times resulted in improper influence over voters, the fraudulent filling out of ballots, and the destruction of ballots.
Another questionable election practice called out in the Vermont Constitution is this:
Chapter II, Section 55 is (Freedom of Elections; Bribery)
No person seeking to be elected is supposed to directly or indirectly give, promise, or bestow, any reward as a connection to acquire votes.
How many of our existing Vermont elected officials use their offices and positions to do favors and give special treatment to individuals to garner their continuous votes?
With all of the varied practices and moving pieces that make up our present Vermont election system, is it a free, fair and pure system without corruption as our Vermont Constitution declares it will be?
Article 8. (Elections to be Free and Pure; Rights of Voters therein)
That all Elections ought to be free and without corruption, and that all voters, having a sufficient, evident, common interest with, and attachment to the community, have a right to elect officers, and be elected into office, agreeably to the regulations made in this Constitution.
What can Vermont citizens do to have a redress of this matter as the Vermont Constitution allows?
Article 20 of The Vermont Constitution (the Right to Assemble, Instruct and Petition) That “The People” have a right to assemble together to consult for their own common good– to instruct their Representatives – and to apply to the Legislature for Redress of Grievances, by address, petition or remonstrance.
Did your state representatives and senators vote yes in May 2021 to the remaking of the Vermont election system? Do you agree with their voting? One way to bring accountability is to vote out the elected officials who voted yes for the present Vermont election system.
Vermont citizens can also choose to get involved. You can sign up to be election workers and poll watchers to bring accountability to elections, run for elected office or justice of the peace in your town to be a voice on your Town Board of Civil Authority. The latest version of Vermont Election Laws is easily available online. Please consider looking them up and see for yourself the tools that are available for Vermont citizen participation.
It is our duty as Vermont citizens to hold our elected officials accountable to the law. Our constitutional republic cannot exist without citizen participation.
Article 6. of the Vermont Constitution (Officers Servants of the People) – That all power being originally inherent in and consequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them.
Our votes are our personal choices to play a part in selecting ethical, honest and lawful elected leaders who will serve “We The People.” Please participate, register to vote and exercise your constitutional privilege and freedom to vote.