Sen. Joe Benning: To mail or not to mail

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Sen. Joe Benning, the minority leader who represents the Caledonia-Orange District in the Vermont Senate.

On May 29th the Caledonian Record published an editorial supporting my and my town clerk’s position on S.348, the bill proposing that every registered voter be mailed a ballot for the general election in November. Rather than spend money on mailing ballots to every registered voter, we contend it would be better to spend money on post cards advising voters that they could request absentee ballots if they were concerned about showing up at the polls during the current COVID-19 pandemic. On May 30th Secretary of State Jim Condos replied to that editorial. He took the Caledonian Record to task for supporting our position.

Secretary Condos and I agree it is imperative that voters are safe if there is any chance the current pandemic is still a threat come November. The only issue between us is his idea that live ballots should be mailed to every currently registered voter as the way to achieve that safety.

state of Vermont

Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, R-Caledonia

For 10 years now the citizens of the Caledonia Senate District have honored me with the ability to serve as one of their state senators. Whenever presented with a legislative proposal, I have endeavored to distinguish whether that proposal is actually “necessary.” I have also done my best to think ahead on what might be unintended consequences. Traditionally I oppose legislation that is either unnecessary or contains a potential mine field of negative unintended consequences.

It is for the above reasons that I have problems with S.348’s plan to mail a live ballot to the household of every currently registered voter, which some estimates place in the range of 200,000. Is this necessary in order to keep voters safe? If the rationale for doing so is to allow the voter to avoid a polling station, the answer is: “no.” Why? Vermont already has a system called “absentee voting,” which does exactly the same thing. Any voter who wishes can request that a ballot be mailed to them. They, in turn, can mail it back. Town clerks already know how to do this. They need no special training. There is no reason to re-invent this wheel.

Are there also potential unintended consequences with S.348? Several. Contrary to those who would seek to couch this discussion as a battle between political parties, the reality is these unintended consequences are the result of simple human behavior.

As a long standing member of Lyndon’s Board of Civil Authority, I’ve spent many hours helping to purge our checklist of voters who have moved or died. Despite our best efforts, we always miss people. It is not humanly possible for a small handful of people to know every single voter in town. Blindly unleashing a couple hundred thousand live ballots statewide guarantees some of those ballots will end up in places where a presumed voter no longer exists. By itself, this dilutes election security.

Does this mean I contend there will be widespread fraud? No. I tend to believe Vermonters will do the right thing. However, after almost 37 years as a criminal defense lawyer, I also know sometimes they don’t. It only takes one nefarious individual to stain an election. Former Representative Sarah Buxton and now deceased Representative David Ainsworth are proof that some elections are decided by only one vote. With absentee balloting, the ballot is specifically requested and sent to a known entity, which provides at least some measure of security. Why eliminate that security?

There are other legitimate questions. When you vote at a polling station … politicians and special interest groups are kept a specific distance away from you. Why? Fear of undue influence. Armed with specific addresses of every live ballot, they now have strong motivation to pay each such household a visit. What happens when they get there? Did the voter fill out the ballot? Although attestations with signatures are required for returned ballots, there are no signatures on file at the town clerk’s office to cross check them. Even if it was filled out by the actual voter, who was sitting next to them and what were they saying when the check mark was applied? Who is it that carried the ballot to the mailbox? Did they put it in? It is impossible to know. S.348 does not address these concerns.

At the end of the day, this bill is unnecessary because we already have a secure system in place that enables voters to be and feel safe when exercising their right to vote. Potential unforeseen consequences that could dilute the sanctity and security of our election cannot be dismissed. For those reasons, I cannot support this bill.

Images courtesy of Flickr/Robert Stinnett and state of Vermont
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11 thoughts on “Sen. Joe Benning: To mail or not to mail

  1. Thanks senator – great detailed contribution. if anyone comes to my door regarding ballots it will not end well and pretty sure they will not soon forget or return. 😉

  2. Here’s an idea. Let anyone who wants to vote by absentee ballot contact his/her town/city clerk and request the ballot. The clerk checks the eligibility against her checklist, and if valid, sends the ballot requested. No, wait – that’s what we’ve been doing for a hundred years or so.

    • Yep. As usual VT need to re-invent the wheel. And spend an obscene amount of tax dollars doing it.

  3. Masters Class 347; 4 credit hours Advanced Students only.
    THE CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF FRAMING PUBLIC CONVERSATIONS.
    How do kind hearted conservative Republicans lose every election?

    The framers –
    NWO Pimps – Ashe, Zuckerman, Mitzi
    Rino’s – Scott, Benning

    Below is a snippet of what our class will be covering at length, let us listen in to an ongoing class…..

    They control the conversation. They frame the conversation, a rino losing to a pimp is a victory. It’s not a loss. Everybody stays in power, nothing changes for the better a perfect habitat for pimps and rinos to prosper and thrive. Noticeably absent from the conversation are American Loving Democrats and Kind hearted conservative Republicans.

    When they frame the conversation this way, yes or no, only two answers of which they picked, they control the outcome. An agent who worked elementary school said this is a classic way you get young kids to do what you want, give them two choices, either of which you want them to do. Who wins in this particular case? The pimps, they will override the Governor. Rinos have no issue losing the debate to a pimp. There is a serious back story that most don’t see.

    Unbeknownst to the kind hearted conservative, aside from all the main stream press, there are millions of emails, millions of emails, tweets, videos, now this, media matters, democratic socialist videos being sent out in Vermont, being sent by the pimps, going directly to all those who vote D, and what do they say?

    Republicans don’t care about your safety. They don’t care about you getting Covid-19. They don’t care about those who are older and ill.

    See, the above is their true goal in framing. Framing the republican as bad, evil.

    This is how they have perfectly framed the Republicans in Vermont to be thought of as misogynist, anti-woman, anti- poor, anti education, the list is long and very untrue. They are extremely good, skilled sophists and would never come out and say it directly. what they want. Their goal and it’s written out in the handbook is to create division. This is how they do it. This is how they keep people from ever voting R in Vermont and they are exceeding good at it. Framing the conversation so they can get mail in ballot and harvest the votes, they would never publicly say this of course.

    So a better reply, one that could possibly break this cycle of pimps and rinos running our state would be this.

    We’ll have 2x more voting booths, special section for elderly, special section for mask wearers, we’ll sanitize after every vote, spacing will be 12′ apart.

    The above comment would show the kind hearted nature of a true conservative, it would prevent them from being framed, it would allow them to control the narrative. This would allow a place for the American loving democrats to get behind.

    Leaders who allow themselves to be framed are followers. Leaders unwittingly fall for this trap every elections cycle. We will be going over 100’s of classic examples on why America is so dysfunctional and filled with corruption and policies that go against the Republic and public in next weeks class.

  4. What the Heck ? Enquiring Minds Want to Know !

    Jim Condos and his minions have said that his “vote by mail” scheme will cost about $1 million to prepare in advance of the primary in August and $3 million to print, address, “stuff” and mail out 200,000 “live ballots” with the postage paid “round trip.” A little simple math tells us that this “sugars out” to about $20 for every ballot sent out ($4,000,000 divided by 200,000 ballots). If one half of the ballots are returned (a number far higher than the number of votes in recent elections) means every vote cost the taxpayers $40.

    Lastly, no one has brought up that the Asst. Secretary of State has said that Elections will be sending out over 200,000 ballots in the “vote by mail” scheme, but there were only 183,000 registered voters in the checklists in 2018 – who are they going to send the “extra” 17,000+ ballots to ?

    Enquiring Minds Want to Know !

    • Wouldn’t it be a whole lot cheaper and more effective to have 2x more booths, sanitizer and people cleaning the sites?

      Call them on their concern about safety, because this is all about safety right?

      Don’t let them pigeon hole us again. We are only doing this because of the cOvid 19 correct?????

      Suddenly we’ll have ballot harvesting every election!

      Here is another case where the entire concersation is framed and we are playing really bad defense. When are we going to play offense??? When???.

      • VT and K.I.S.S don’t go hand in hand. If there is an opportunity to waste taxpayer dollars the chance doesn’t go to waist.

  5. Joe, thanks for the update.

    As we all know the state is ” Back Open ” most are complying with the social distancing
    and wearing a mask when with the public, so voting should be as usual we can head to
    your local polling location, wear your mask and there will be plenty of hand sanitizer to go
    around.

    We all know as stated above ” Never let A Crisis Go to waste ” per Democrat Rahm
    Emanual and it appears Vermont Liberals are trying their best heed the message and
    pass this” Mail-In ” boondoggle !!

    Wake up Vermont, we deserve better for the state. More liberals mean more debt and
    certainly more taxes, something we can’t afford.

  6. Joe,
    The Bill is pure exploitation of the virus situation.
    NEVER WASTE A GOOD CRISIS

    People have been going to local stores, gas stations, and malls to buy stuff they need in March, April, and May.

    They can also go to the voting both in November, FIVE MONTHS LATER, when this brouhaha has will have subsided and millions will be back at work.

    The reason for the rush of 325 is they want to have the law in place, and Condos making all the decisions, BEFORE THE VIRUS WANES.

    They do not a panel, they don’t control, to make the decisions.

    Mailing postcards to all registered voters to remind them to request an absentee ballot does not satisfy their hunger for more power and control.

    They want that law, come hell or high water, by hook or by crook.

    The dog has the juicy bone and does not want to give it up.
    No consolation price will do.
    It is all or nothing.

    • If the plan is to mail ballots to registered voters. Where does the unregistered voter fit in the plan? As a county chair I am seeing more and more Vermonters showing interest in state wide politics. Are they to be left out in 2020? Will they have to request a registration from some where? This may already be in the plan, but I would like answers to these questions.

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