Secretary of State’s office to spend millions on election system

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday discussed the cost of S.15, a bill that would require Vermont to send live ballots to every voter on the statewide checklist with or without a request.

During the hearing, Secretary of State Jim Condos said the election system already needs millions of dollars for updates, with or without S.15.

“Going forward we have some major expenses coming,” he said. “Most of the tabulators that we have today — we have about 300 of them — are very much older, with 20-to-25-year-old operating systems. So we have that expense, which is going to be major.”

Secretary of State Jim Condos discusses the financial needs of Vermont’s election system Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee.

The total cost to implement S.15 is estimated at less than a million dollars. Under S.15, primary elections would continue to operate as they have in the past — voters can request mail-in ballots but will not receive them automatically. The bill leaves it up to smaller communities to choose to mail ballots out to everyone or not during small local elections. It would also would require that the Secretary of State’s office provide specialized drop boxes for communities that request one.

There will be $300,000 in the bill for outreach, to educate people about mail-in balloting. Radio and TV ads are expected to be a large portion of those costs. There will also be a $100,000 upgrade to the state’s online election management system.

In all the bill is estimated to require $800,000 in additional one-time taxpayer expenditures, plus additional costs afterward.

“The $800,000 is to be spent between now and until June, and then $2 million will be required to go forward from June on into the election cycle,” Condos said.

Condos’ office has several million dollars remaining in “HAVA” (Help America Vote Act) money. Those election security funds from the federal government have special conditions for use —  namely, for spending that benefits federal elections for president, senators and U.S. representative.

“[HAVA is] down to about $7 or $8 million, I believe,” Condos told the committee. “We expect in the next two to three years to eat up most of that money.”

Condos also wants S.15 to allow for a new staff position at the Secretary of State’s office — an assistant director of elections. He said the position could at least partially be covered by HAVA. “At least 50 percent, probably 75 percent” he said.

Rep. Mike McCarthy, D-St. Albans, noted that the goal of S.15 is to take a mail-in voting system that was set up for a pandemic emergency and make it the state’s voting system permanently.

“It will take what we all experienced last year in 2020 with the general election — being a universal vote-by-mail where we mailed a ballot to every active registered voter — [and] will make that the normal process in perpetuity moving forward,” he said.

Condos said in some states there have been efforts to centralize the counting of ballots, but added Vermont clerks don’t support that idea.

“The town clerks have been adamant that they don’t want that to happen — they want to maintain control of those ballots when they come back,” he said. “So there’s a push and pull, and we’re constantly working with the town clerks.”

Watch Wednesday’s committee discussion of S.15 on YouTube.

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

6 thoughts on “Secretary of State’s office to spend millions on election system

  1. If history is any gauge of things to come, as with everything else the State funds (e.g. the public school monopoly and healthcare), the more they spend, the worse the outcome.

  2. What is the big deal about spending $$$Millions anyway?
    Million here, million there!
    Vermont does this every day! For nearly every challenge!
    Only trouble is that we don’t have a million taxpayers
    They use the money that grows on trees, so no sweat

  3. Are these the same machines used in 2020 that were hacked and the data manipulated on,
    so this sounds like a boondoggle of an investment unless you need to manipulate data !!

    And as far as this ” Publisher Clearing House ” style ballot mailing, we really need to have
    this committee overhauled if they believe this is a good idea………

    Wake up Vermont, they have a plan and it’s to have complete control, if S15 passes your
    vote really won’t matter, look at the political and financial landscape of Vermont, and then
    look who’s in charge……….

    • Sorry to say CHenry – your vote has not counted for some time! Yes people need to wake up and get up – if not now the fraction of insanity passing in Montpelier you are witnessing will explode. The costs SOS is vying for is low balling it. We need these costs detailed and published for the people to review – where will the NEW counting machines be bought – start there Mr. SOS,

      When do we hear from ALL Clerks?

      Too few realize what is coming!

  4. Jim Condoms didn’t say that the Town Clerks are adamant about having voters request their ballots? He is speaking in partial truths.

  5. Jim Condos – the man who wants Vermont elections a normal mockery into perpetuity just like 2020. The man has no integrity and no morals whatsoever. China is so proud of this little protégé – he must be getting paid rather well to do such bidding on behalf of the CCP/DNC.

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