Opinion: Vermont’s election integrity is at stake with S.15

By Matthew Strong

In this third installment of an investigative series into Vermont election security and the impacts of S.15, we look to town clerk feedback, and what simple measures could be included in S.15 to make it work, and another option to mass mailing ballots every election.

As we discovered, Vermont is not one of the 34 states that require some form of identification to vote. Vermont does not have voter signature verification. Vermont voter rolls are difficult to maintain and purge inactive voters, or voters who have moved. While officials boast no fraud has been proven, this fact is just as likely to be the result of a near total inability to detect fraud as the absence of it. S.15 would put Vermont in the unenviable position of having the least secure election process in the country.

RELATED: Vermont on path to having least secure mail-in voting process in the country

TNR

As evidenced by other state’s work and success, high degrees of voting integrity and voter turnout and accessibility are possible. Without it, Vermont has the likely future of being the next Florida “hanging chad” internet joke.

Reached for comment via email, the Legislative Committee Chair for the Vermont Municipal Clerks & Treasurers Association, Carol Dawes (Barre City Clerk/Treasurer) said:

“The bill [S.15] as passed by the Senate includes a number of provisions that will make permanent changes that were put in place during the COVID pandemic including authorizing outdoor polling places and drop boxes, allowing early processing of absentee ballots, establishing protocols around vote-by-mail, and setting up systems for allowing voters to cure defective ballots.  All items included in the bill expand voters’ access to the voting booth and ballot box, and the right to vote, while protecting the integrity of elections state-wide.

“Clerks bring a unique point of view to the table, as the ones who are doing the work “in the field,” stated Dawes.

It is worth noting that in Dawes’ statement she claims S.15 “protects the integrity of elections state-wide,” but lists no specific measures about how the law actually does this “in the field.”

While some Vermont clerks might support S.15, this is not universal. Donna Kinville, Clerk for South Burlington, has testified in front of Vermont legislative committees about weaknesses in the system. Reached for comment about the following real-world scenario of a campaign volunteer and the ease of committing fraud, she responded below:

Campaign volunteer scenario and town clerk response

1) As a campaign volunteer in the final month of a Vermont campaign (after ballots have been mailed out), I would be knocking on doors, and asking people if they need help understanding their ballots or if they need assistance getting to the polls on election day (totally legal and ethical). Households who receive ballots for persons no longer living there may ask what to do with them in the natural course of conversation. “I can take care of those for you,” I respond and take them.

KINVILLE: That would be completely possible as there is no signature verification process for early voting in Vermont.  However, a family member can request one now for everyone in their house and some of them may be college students voting in another state that has not updated their voter status in Vermont.  They could also vote those early.

2) I now know two important pieces of information; a) the person is no longer in the area but is still on the voter list, and b) the likelihood of them showing up to vote in person is almost zero.

KINVILLE: Pretty much correct, although without being able to ask for identification, someone could vote using their name at the polls on election day.  We are large enough of a city that it would be very easy to do as the election workers can’t know everyone in their district.

3) I fill out the ballot, and envelope, and do it carefully to make sure all is correct, and the signature is vague but neat. It is mailed in, and if nothing is wrong with the information on the envelope, the name is marked as “already voted” on the voter rolls, but the ballot is not counted until election day. When the intended person doesn’t show up to vote in person, the ballot is removed from the envelope and commingled with the in-person ballots and counted.

KINVILLE: The early ballots are never held until the end of election day to see if someone shows up to vote or not.  An early ballot can be processed 2 ways.  First if we are allowed to do early processing of ballots.  If we do early pre-processing that ballot has already been marked off on the checklist and opened and put through the tabulator.  No way to know which ballot it was and pull it out.  Secondly, if we don’t do early preprocessing of ballots, then the ballot inside the envelope is brought to the polls and through the course of the day processed by the front check-in table and handed to the election officials to open and put through the tabulator.  So, it would depend on numerous variables when it would be processed but usually done by 11:00 a.m. and no way to retrieve that ballot once it is voted.

As confirmed, the lack of security and difficulty in keeping voter rolls efficiently accurate could lead to great uncertainty and ease of committing fraud in a multitude of formats. Emails to the VMCTA concerning the security issues listed above were not returned prior to publication. Further emails to the Secretary of State’s office were not returned prior to publication.

To recap:

  • Anyone can collect unclaimed or unwanted ballots and not be caught.
  • Anyone could fill out and send in those ballots and, if the real voter does not show up to vote, the fraudulent votes would go undetected and be reflected in the final vote count. The fraudster could not be caught.
  • If someone fills out an errant ballot for someone else and the valid voter does show up at the polls to vote, the fraudulent vote could not be removed and would still be reflected in the final vote count, and it is not likely the fraudster would be caught.
  • If a voter moves away and is legally no longer eligible to vote in Vermont, but remains on the checklist, and that person’s ballot is stolen and fraudulently cast, it means the no-longer-eligible voter remains on the voter checklist as an “active voter” and will continue to receive live absentee ballots, which can again be stolen, creating a cycle of fraud.

However, there are many solutions, and most of them are relatively easy given the low population in Vermont.

At its very first hearing, a special Pennsylvania Senate committee, formed in the wake of the 2020 election cycle controversy and Supreme Court cases, turned to Utah for advice. The Vermont legislature could gain valuable insight from them as well.

How Utah makes mailed ballots secure

Utah, a long-term conservative state, has been using Vote-by-Mail for their elections since 2012.

Justin Lee, Utah elections director, shared valuable information with the committee on how they achieve a high degree of security, while also increasing convenience and massive voter participation, in the following excerpt from the Deseret News:

During the hearing, Pennsylvania lawmakers questioned Lee about election security, voter rolls, voter identification, ballot drop boxes, ballot curing and fraud.

Lee told the committee Utah hasn’t seen widespread voter fraud, but there have been instances where voters have signed a ballot on behalf of someone else, such as a spouse, partner or child who might be away at school. County officials catch those cases because they verify every signature against the voter’s signature in the state’s database, he said.

If that happens, voters are informed that they are committing a crime.

‘We don’t see a lot of repeat offenders when we reach out and let them know that,’ Lee said.

Over the years, the larger concern among Utah voters has been to make sure election officials don’t discount their ballot because the signature on the envelope doesn’t match the one in the database due to age, injury or ‘neat or messy’ handwriting on any given day, he said.

Counties have a system in place that allows voters to ‘cure’ an issue with a signature. County clerks reach out through email, letter, phone call or text message to have them verify whether they signed the ballot, which also provides an opportunity for a county to collect a more up-to-date signature.

Utah also has a tracking system on its elections website that allows voters to see if a county clerk has received their ballot and if it was counted. Going forward the state will add text and emails notifications to let voters know the status of their ballot, Lee said.’

According to the article, “in 2020, about 90% of Utah voters voted by mail in the March presidential primary, 99% in the June state primary, and about 93% in the November general election.” Clearly the idea that higher integrity leads to lower turnout is not realistic.

Messages to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s )ffice (Utah has no secretary of state) to inquire about the specifics of how county clerks maintain clean voter rolls were not returned prior to publication time. However, their website lists several ways, and it is constant process, meaning the clerks have much more control and efficiency in Utah than here in Vermont.

Voting by mobile phone

Another alternative to mass-mailing ballots for absentee voting is blockchain system voting. If the goal is extreme accessibility and ease of voting, then why not contract with a New England company to do absentee voting via smartphone or tablet? “Blockchain” is an open-source distributed ledger or database system in which an updated copy of the records is available to all stakeholders at all times. Due to this distributed nature, it is almost impossible for a single person or company to hack everybody’s ledger, ensuring security against cyberattacks. This has led to the rise of several companies using the security aspects to create mobile voting systems for absentee voting. Several elections have already used the technology with more adaptation on the way.

A common misconception among opponents of mobile voting, is the “lack of mobile device ownership.” However, a 2019 Pew Research Center study shows the opposite. “The vast majority of Americans – 96% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 81%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011. Along with mobile phones, Americans own a range of other information devices. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, while roughly half now own tablet computers and roughly half own e-reader devices,” the survey concluded.

The process is simple. You would contact your town clerk for an electronic absentee ballot. The clerk would send a secured link to download the app, verify your identity, fill out the ballot in your district, and submit it. The app removes your identity from the vote, while giving you a receipt of your vote to print if you wish, and then giving the town clerk a completed ballot to add to their other ballots to tabulate, securely and efficiently. Engaging the youth vote would be much easier if a simple email to the town clerk, and less than 5 minutes on your phone would finish your voting experience, without leaving the couch.

As evidenced by other state’s work and success, high degrees of voting integrity and voter turnout and accessibility are possible. Our election integrity is at stake. Without it, Vermont has the likely future of being the next Florida “hanging chad” internet joke.

Image courtesy of TNR
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4 thoughts on “Opinion: Vermont’s election integrity is at stake with S.15

  1. Voter ID with photo would be an absolute minimum to ensure the person showing up to vote is indeed that person.

    Airlines require photo IDs to get on a plane, plus a passport with photo, for international flights.

    It would be insane for Vermont not to require proper IDs.

    However, the COUNTING of the votes is even more important.

    If that counting takes place in Dem/Prog controlled counting centers, staffed by Dem/Prog counters/operatives, all sorts of “election results” can be fabricated, as was shown in New Hampshire in 2020.

    NEW HAMPSHIRE; An Urgent Job for the New Hampshire Legislature

    NH has a perfect opportunity to immediately revise NH voting laws.
    Strictly regulate the circumstances and methods of COUNTING the votes.
    None of the counting machines should be programmable by insiders and outsiders
    None should be connectable to the internet and other computers by means of LANs.
    None should have an insertable, programmable electronic card
    Abolish almost all absentee voting, except for special cases.
    Do not allow out-of-state students to register and vote. They would not be “deprived”, because they can, and should, vote in their own state.

    NOTE: The Legislature of New Hampshire became Republican, because the “activist student vote” was absent. They likely also voted in their own states. After all, every vote counts!

    Example of MAJOR COUNTING AND BALLOT BOX STUFFING Fraud in New Hampshire

    If such COUNTING AND BALLOT BOX STUFFING frauds go on in New Hampshire, they would not happen in Vermont?

    The hand recount of the Windham (Rockingham District 7) New Hampshire House 2020 race revealed Dominion election counting machines shorted all four Republicans by about 300 votes. Gee, how is this possible?

    This was no a trivial matter. The difference was 1,363 votes out of 10,006 vote cast, 13.63%

    A forensic audit will determine the huge discrepancy between the election day results and subsequent recount of Windham’s November 3, 2020, State Rep. race where a difference of 1,363 total votes from just 10,006 ballots was uncovered.

    The Reveal of the COUNTING Fraud

    This fraud was revealed, because St. Laurent, Democrat, who lost by 24 votes, challenged the count, and got a recount.
    Soti, Republican, recovered the 297 votes falsely taken from him by sneaky Dem/Prog vote COUNTERS
    St. Laurent, had to give back 99 votes falsely attributed to him by sneaky Dem/Prog vote COUNTERS
    As a result, instead of losing by 24 votes, St. Laurent ended up losing by 420 votes!!! Yikes!!

    St. Laurent must not be glad he asked for a recount, because the recount of the votes of the other 3 Republicans showed each of them had been screwed out of about 300 votes as well, thanks to sneaky Dem/Prog COUNTING shenanigans.

    The thinking of the Dem/Progs must have been: “Heh, this is a close race. Maybe we can flip it”.

    Dem/Progs vote COUNTERS were:

    1) Holding back votes so they would not be counted in a timely manner, and/or
    2) Rigged the vote counting machines. See URL
    https://granitegrok.com/mg_windham/2020/11/recount-in-windham-rock-dist-7-machine-shorted-every-republican-by-about-300-votes

    FRAUD No. 1
    Soti, Republican, before recount 4480 votes, after recount 4777 votes, gain 297 votes
    St. Laurent, before recount 4456, after recount 4357, a LOSS of 99 votes
    Margin, before recount 24, after recount 420.

    FRAUD No. 2
    Griffin, Republican, before recount 5292, after recount 5591 votes, gain 299 votes
    Azibert, Democrat, before recount 2787 votes, after recount 2808 votes, gain 28 votes
    Margin, before recount 2505 votes, after recount 2783 votes

    FRAUD NO. 3
    Lyon, Republican, before recount 4786 votes, after recount 5039 votes, gain 303 votes
    Roman, Democrat, before recount 3415 votes, after recount 3443 votes, gain 28 votes
    Margin, before recount 1371 votes, after recount 1646 votes

    FRAUD No. 4
    McMahon, Republican, before recount 5256 votes, after recount 5554 votes, gain 298 votes
    Singueau, Democrat, before recount 2764 votes, after recount 2782 votes, gain 18 votes
    Margin, before recount 2492 votes, after recount 2772 votes

  2. When grasping for examples of “systemic racism”, I can think of no better instance than the pervasive claim by the left that Black people are too lazy, too stupid or have financial priorities that preclude them from obtaining an ID. Anyone who drives to the polls is required to carry on their person a government-issued ID and must present it upon demand during a traffic stop. But when arriving at the polls, it is deemed racial discrimination to demand ID for purposes of preventing voter fraud. Anytime someone casts a fraudulent ballot, it disenfranchises a legitimate voter, and that is a CIVIL RIGHTS INFRINGEMENT.

  3. curing a defective ballot is just another way of saying white out one candidate and select the other.

  4. Voting should be a pretty simple process, every one that’s breathing should know what
    day to vote, so you go to your local polling location and an ID, it should be required and
    cast your ballot, and if you cannot make that, then you need to ” request ” an absentee
    ballot ……. see pretty simple.

    Any elected official ” yours ” that wants other means than these two steps, you better ask
    them why ??

    How do you win, by hook or by crook and you’ve seen the results, wake up people they
    are not in it for you !!

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