Secretary of state responds to questions about mail-in voting and election security

As uncertainty grows about what role the coronavirus might play in this year’s elections, Secretary of State Jim Condos and Gov. Phil Scott have diverged on how to conduct voting.

Condos wants to commit to expanded mail-in voting now, whereas Scott would like to make preparations but leave the decision until after the August primary.

A recent poll showed 53% of registered voters in Vermont believe election officials have no way of knowing who really casts votes in a vote-by-mail system; less than 30% said voters’ identities could be verified. Despite the lack of safeguards inherent in voting by mail, Secretary of State Jim Condos continues to claim voter fraud “is virtually nonexistent.”

True North put a series of questions to the secretary about mail-in voting and the need for election security. Here are his answers.

True North Reports: How will your office and town clerks know whether ballots sent to voters and returned by mail were filled out by the voters for whom they are intended?

Vermont Secretary of State's Office

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos

Condos: [State] law currently requires the voter to place the voted ballot in a certificate envelope which requires a legible name and signature before being placed in the outer return envelope. The certificate is filled out under the penalty of perjury, and it says so. It includes a statement that the voter voted in private and was not influenced by anyone.

During a Presidential General Election, Vermont may have requests from [about] 1,800-2,000 overseas and military voters — nationally, [about] 700,000 overseas and military voters use the vote by mail option. Historically, military voters have used vote by mail since the Civil War.

Roughly 30% of Vermonters vote early or by mail, and in my entire time as Secretary of State I have not seen a single allegation of fraudulent activity like this occurring. While voter fraud can occur, it is exceedingly rare. Even in states like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii or Utah, where they have universal vote by mail, fraud rates are infinitesimal.

TNR: Where do things stand in the process of making this decision about vote by mail?

Condos: I have responded to some concerns the governor raised, mainly around timing, and have proposed a compromise — I hope that together the governor and I can come to an agreement and do the right thing for Vermonters.

TNR: What happens if Scott insists on waiting until August to decide?

Condos: Our focus right now is on finding a solution, and moving forward in agreement with the governor.

TNR: Why not let people who are concerned about the virus simply request a ballot through the normal process?

Condos: First, let me reiterate I have two unwavering goals throughout my decision-making process for the 2020 election cycle: preserving every Vermont voter’s right to vote, and protecting the health and safety of voters, town clerks and election workers.

The governor and his health experts have said there will be no way to predict what the status of the virus will be in September, October, or early November. All of the experts, federal and state, are advising of the likelihood of a COVID-19 resurgence in the fall.

In the general election, the way Vermonters vote will remain the same, except we propose mailing a ballot to every active registered voter with a postage paid return envelope. This provides greater voter choice. Shouldn’t voters have the power to decide how they exercise their right to vote during this crisis?

Voters who do not vote their ballot by mail will still retain their right to vote in-person at the polls on Election Day, and we can hope, but not guarantee, that the virus doesn’t pose a threat at that time.

Relying only on our existing request-based system for the November general election will not sufficiently reduce polling place traffic enough to ensure that in-person polling can be conducted as safely as possible for voters, town clerks and election workers, the majority of whom are elderly and represent vulnerable populations. Voters should not have to choose between their health and their constitutional right to vote.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of state of Vermont and Vermont Secretary of State's Office

36 thoughts on “Secretary of state responds to questions about mail-in voting and election security

  1. So what a bunch of bs from SOS on this. Has the sound of a parrot. If folks want to vote but not go to the booth then request an absentee ballot. Would be so funny if they do this and more votes than registered voters. We all know voter fraud is out there. This would be the equivalent of ballot harvesting in my book. Voter ID is the only way to properly do this we have id’s for everything else but the most important is voting. Wonder why the Dems don’t want this. Oh maybe no chance at winning.

  2. As an election official who has worked the polls for many years, I am struck by the absence of any discussion by SOS or those advocating for “absentee” voting, regarding the problem of “defective” ballots. If, for example, the voter – whoever that may be – fails to follow the instructions correctly for returning the voted ballot (e.g., failing to sign the certificate envelope (CE), or failing to place the voted ballot in the CE, or the voter identifies him/her self on the ballot, or, in the case of a “primary” election, the voter fails to return unvoted ballots & envelope, etc.) such ballots are declared DEFECTIVE and NOT COUNTED!! Plus now there is the added risk to our mostly elderly election officials of contracting C-19 from handling all those filthy envelopes and ballots! For these reasons, as well as those articulated so well by others here, I am against the mass-mailing of absentee ballots to voters. The system we have in place works just fine; leave it alone!

    • That’s the first good point I’ve heard, thanks for raising it. The volunteers who conduct the whole thing are people to consider. The thing with vote-by-mail is that you can wash your hands, whereas in person there’s a higher risk of droplet transmission, which will impact our people who are there volunteering all day the most.
      Mail is the best way to proceed.

  3. Patriots;

    Please step-up and help us educate all Vermonters that this is ot healthy for our Republic, that it is nothing more than the Left controlling who or that only Dems/Leftist are elected in Vermont. This Bill is about approving fraud and criminal activities by Dems/Leftist, and “WE THE PEOPLE” must stop now!

    Educate your family, friends and acquaintances.

    Call your State Senators and House member now, thru the State Capitol Sergeant at Arms office at 802.828.2228 and call Gov. Scott tdy at 802.828.3333. Thank you,

    Gregory Thayer, MBA
    Vermonters for Vermont Initiative
    Rutland, Vermont 05702

  4. “Elections Gone Wild – Vermont Edition !”

    You must read SoS Condos’ lame answers to Michael Bielawski’s questions on his “mail-in voting” scheme- OMG ! “Election Fraud ? Jimmy says “nothing to see here, move along !”

    Jim Condos dreams of an election where waves of ballots flood every post office, every nursing home, every college campus (every graveyard) in search of someone, anyone to fill it out (most probably a liberal advocate) “properly” and send it back in the handy “postage paid” envelope ! What could possibly go wrong, Jimmy ? Maybe a little Ballot Harvesting ?

    I am convinced that Jim Condos would have no problem having voters pick election champions like viewers pick winners on “Dancing With the Stars” – calling into 800 numbers by telephone with the persons with the most calls being named the winners – duplicate calls, robo-dialing, anything and everything go !

    We can name it “Elections Gone Wild – Vermont Edition !”

  5. Surely do wish you people who have written such excellent comments would be in the Vermont government. Then, things would get done, wrongs would be made right, and Vermont could return to the conservative state that we knew and loved. How about MVGA (Make Vermont Great Again)

  6. My mother, who died in her 90s, spent 12 years in a nursing/retirement home.
    Her nursing/retirement home received state subsidies.

    When she received a mail-in ballot, it was filled-in by the staff, because her eyesight had failed.
    She was told where to sign it (just a scribble) and it was mailed out per rules and regulations and counted.

    All over Vermont, there are thousands of people who no longer can fill in, what to them, are complicated ballots.
    Highly likely, those ballots are filled-in by staff.

    That is called a form of proxy-voting.

    It is somewhat similar to many older people having their taxes done by others, such as family, friends, others, such as H&R Block.

    • Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for voting your ballot the way you see fit, or being sure that the person filling it out for you is trust worthy. Even an ‘X’ will suffice as a signature in most cases.

      We can’t stop people from voting because they’re blind or they ‘scribble’ their signature.

      • Jay,
        When my sickly mother was being spoon fed and could barely see, a ballot arrived.

        Immediately, she was wide awake, asking how do I fill this out, please help me, I want to be a RESPONSIBLE citizen.

        I barely know who I am, but here is my photo ID, all this while hoping to live another day.

        Thank you for your comment

        • I’m not just commenting, Willem. I’m trying to figure out how we can make our elections more secure. With all due respect to your mother’s memory, I don’t understand your point. What does your mother’s experience have to do with mail-in voting and election security? What are you suggesting?

  7. Time to file a complaint against the government of Vermont with Attorney General Barr.

  8. Great interview.
    It revealed the CONDOS specious mail-in rationale

    The virus issue is largely a non-event in most of Vermont.

    Almost all cases and deaths are in the northwest, i.e., the Burlington Area.

    The situation has stabilized and the opening-up process is in progress, as it should.

    The CONDOS answers support HIS premise, whereas, it is safe enough to be served by older people (with masks) in Wal-Mart, in MARCH, APRIL, and MAY (I am an older person, over 80, and have shopped there at least 2 times per week, as well as at Home Depot and other stores), it would be disastrous to be served by older people (with masks) at the polling station in NOVEMBER.

    The CONDOS premise is irrational, in fact, beyond ridiculous.

    He likely knows it, but repeats it anyway, hoping it will stick, eventually, may be hoping for the new virus wave.

    Condos says, If my above premise is not good enough, how about this to scare the hell out of you: “ALL the health experts in Vermont (wow), are singing in unison: “A new wave of the VIRUS is coming in NOVEMBER!!”

    It is not a coincidence, Dem/Progs are ALSO singing in unison: “It ain’t safe, it ain’t safe, a new virus wave is coming!!!”

  9. Here’s a thought: mail an absentee ballot to every voter on a town’s voter checklist – via registered mail requiring a signature from the addressee, and only the addressee. The postman/postwoman must see legitimate identification from anyone accepting receipt, as would a clerk selling beer or cigarettes. If no one signs for the ballot, return the ballot to the sender.

    • P.S. What happens to the ballot after its accepted is, frankly, none of our business. If the recipient is careless, allows someone else to fill it out, allows someone to steal it, or loses it…. tough luck. We can’t monitor what people do when they step into the voting booth either.

      But at least we’ll know who received ballots and who didn’t.

  10. Hey Jimmy, has anyone ever been convicted of purgery as a result of filing a fraudulent mail in ballot? I doubt it. The law is unenforceable unless of course the authorities contact everyone mailing in a ballot to confirm in fact the ballot came from that individual. I can see that happening after every election before a winner is identified. Totally impractical. Another pipe dream coming from Montpelier.

    • ….has anyone ever been convicted of purgery as a result of filing a fraudulent mail in ballot?

      “Six people were arrested Thursday and one was arrested Friday after a grand jury indicted them on a variety of election fraud charges. They face accusations of bribing voters, improperly helping people fill out absentee ballots, voting despite being convicted of disqualifying felonies and voting even though they lived outside the city or voting district.”

  11. “Condos: First, let me reiterate I have two unwavering goals throughout my decision-making process for the 2020 election cycle: preserving every Vermont voter’s right to vote, and protecting the health and safety of voters, town clerks and election workers.” Note that ensuring every ballot cast is legal and valid doesn’t appear on his list.

    • so true and when did his job description include health and safety, what’s his credentials on that! He needs to stay in his lane.

      Unfortunately that lane is the NWO, above a sworn oath to protect and defend the constitution.

  12. With very little effort, I think our towns and cities can make voting places safe for people to show up and vote. It may take moving voting venues to larger areas for more spacing. Require people wear masks and have masks available for those who don’t have one. Offer hand sanitizer outside the door as they leave. We don’t need the added expense of printing and mailing every Vermont voter a ballot during the time of huge deficits.

    Vermonters have always been clever people and I’m sure town officials will figure way to make voting a safe experience for their residents. This mail in voting scheme is simply not necessary.

    • Totally agree with you John. For folks at great risk, request an absentee ballot under the current rules.
      Condos’ plan creates unneeded risk and cost to our elections.

  13. But as we show the problems of the super majority at the state house we make little to no effort to get republicans on the ballots.In 2018 republicans ran 79 candidates out of 150 and we are on track to repeat this malfunction in 2020. I beat this drum all the time and it falls on deaf ears. The solution to our problems is a simple one. There is 14 days left to get registered to run. The process is easy and cost nothing.Work four half days a week and pick up $700 a week plus perks and help balance this state. Spend endless amounts of time beating the same ole horse and get the same results.

    • Hey Rich, So many of us could see this writing on the wall. Perhaps there is a divine plan and I do mean that. We are going to lose incredibly this election, certainly not gain seats. But perhaps the plan is to totally fall into the laps of the current majority. Their plan will be to raise taxes, which will bring about a revolt of epic proportions.

      Then perhaps we as Vermonters can regroup in 2022. It’s like watching your son buy some unreliable piece of junk that won’t run and he’s paid too much for the car to boot. It’s like watching your daughter date some bad boy, whom you know is bad news on many levels.

      We’ll need to personally weather the storm, it’s going to be a complete mess in this state. Lick our wounds and go for something different next time. Putting people on the front line with no vision, skills, backup/support, money and action plan is needlessly putting men and women in harms way, hurting them, our party.

      Thinking as I’m typing, I wonder if the best thing for Vermont would be for all Republicans to NOT run for office, except the governor. Let them have total control and see what an epic failure they become. They couldn’t blame anything on Republicans then either. We could then regroup for 2022.

  14. For Dem/Progs mail-in voting has to do with increased command and control over the electorate and of government.

    They are not in business, but want to feel important by spending $6 billion per year (taxpayer money) anyway, on all sorts of more or less useless socialistic programs, that have automatic, self-perpetuating features, to cement control FOREVER.


    Holcombe, Zuckerman, VPIRG, and assorted Dem/Progs, chiming in for mail-in.
    In fact, not a single Dem/Prog legislator dares state an opposite view, for fear of being ostracized by the party elite.
    All SHALL chime in, to make it appear there is an unstoppable ground-swell for mail-in, and later, more socialism

    Dem/Progs, profess to be oh-so concerned about your health and safety.
    Hidden agenda: They are even more concerned to get more votes for more veto power and control

    Here is mischievous Pelosi, using the crisis to get another THREE $TRILLION of virus-scare money, with billions of it to go to illegal aliens.
    Mail-in voting is part of the Dem/Prog national platform, says Pelosi from Caliphonya.

    Here is some real-world common sense for CONDOS:

    If Vermonters have been going to grocery stores ALL OVER THE STATE (even in Burlington/Montpelier), in MARCH, APRIL and MAY, they can physically show up to IDENTIFY THEMSELVES WITH A PHOTO ID, and then vote in NOVEMBER.
    No fraudulent PROXY voting!!

    NOTE: South Korea and Wisconsin recently held their elections by means of in-person voting WITHOUT AN UPTICK IN VIRUS CASE COUNT. Just Google the news
    Vermont could do the same in November, MORE THAN FIVE MONTHS IN THE FUTURE.

    It is a complete fabrication to insist on mail-in voting.
    By November there will be absolutely no reason for it.
    Those who are scare-mongering now, will look silly in November, when the voting and everything else will take place as usual.

    If China could build TWO 1000-bed hospitals in 2 weeks, Condos should have plenty of time to set up infrastructures and print ballots for a PARTIAL MAIL-IN vote in NOVEMBER, IF NECESSARY.

    If the virus episode has not subsided by November, FREE MASKS SHOULD BE AVAILABLE AT THE POLLING STATIONS.

    Only authorized/official people should hand them out.

  15. When a person votes in person, with few exceptions, they are the only one filling out the ballot. With a mail in ballot the state can not guarantee that the vote cast was by the person signing the envelope. This may well lead to some voters being guided, coerced or otherwise instructed how to vote or even being filled out for them in a way that the signer might not wish. While these concerns exists with current mail in ballots, the proposed full mail in balloting would only amplify the problem.

    Who will be authenticating the signature on each of these mailed in ballots? At what cost and to whom?

  16. You cannot explain to Jim Condos that mail-in voting can lead to fraud, he
    doesn’t want to hear it, this is his and the “DNC” baby, and it must happen
    their longevity in ” controlled politics” is in play.

    By hook or by crook……………………………..

    • Agree. We have absentee, or early voting, currently available by request of the voter. Works very well for those in military service, someone in the hospital or nursing home, students, those who will be away or cannot make to the voting place for any reason. If folks are fearful or at risk with COVID 19 this would be a good reason to excel use it.
      Condos is taking his orders from the DNC, not Vermont citizens. This proposal will be a nightmare for our hardworking town clerks and add more expense to the town clerk’s budget for no good purpose.

      • It didn’t work very well during my time in the military. Twice I received my absentee ballot in time for Christmas.

        Apparently the State forgets that Navy ships are mobile and our mail is delivered by helicopter.

        • Yeah, well I’m sure that was the plan, it’s no accident you didn’t get your absentee ballot, don’t be fooled.

    • There in lies the problem Neil.After we sit on our backsides and do nothing year after year we say that we will get them next time.We as a party are lazy and as corrupt as the dems. Do you really feel that getting republicans elected is putting them and our party in harms way? I sure hope not and if you do believe that.I can’t disagree with you strong enough.Regroup for 2022? Regroup implies that we have at sometime grouped.When would that have been Neil? I will continue to look for front line people with vision,skills,back up and plans to get on the ballots I do want to thank you for your input. I had no idea that anyone thought those things,but now that you have put it out there it’s easy to see based on the actions of others that you must not be alone in your thinking. Rich Parry

  17. Voter fraud has been exposed to Secretary of State James condos several times and he refuses to do anything about it.

    We cannot trust his judgment nor can we trust people to be honest when we mail out ballots to dead people and two people who have moved away or out of the country and these ballots come back filled out.

    This is totally unnecessary when we are allowed to visit stores as long as we safely distance we can do the same thing at the voting booth to keep our voting sacred.

    The Democratic party is the party that has lost several thousand votes in the past.

    This is our last attempt to save Vermont from socialist destruction…we cannot allow this to happen we must vote in person and we must have voter ID

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