Lawmakers of the Senate Committee on Government Operations on Tuesday expressed regret over giving the governor a say in this year’s elections and began drafting legislation to strip him of his authority in the matter.
As the coronavirus pandemic weakens and Vermonters seek to return to normal living, a rift has emerged between the Secretary of State’s Office and Gov. Phil Scott about how to handle the upcoming elections. Secretary of State Jim Condos’ proposal to set up a universal vote-by-mail system for the general election hit a snag after Scott said he wants to wait until after the August primary to make a decision.
The joint decision-making process, established through the COVID-19 election bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law on March 30, authorizes Condos’ office to consult with the governor to change the election process if necessary to promote public safety.
But on Tuesday, Democrat and Progressive senators verbalized their support for universal vote-by-mail and discussed how they could bypass Scott to quickly approve mail-in voting for November.
“I think the lesson learned here is that we should have stuck to our initial guns, which was keeping the power and the choice with the secretary of state and not adding that agreement with the governor,” Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, said during the virtual meeting conducted over Zoom.
Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, echoed that sentiment.
“I don’t know how to understand what the administration’s position is when they say we don’t want to be in the middle of it. Well, there is a way not to be in the middle of it — that is to say henceforth to defer entirely to the chief elections officer in the state of Vermont,” he said.
Following a lengthy discussion, Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, who chairs the committee, instructed BetsyAnn Wrask, attorney with the office of Legislative Council, to prepare new legislation in case Scott continues to delay a vote-by-mail expansion. The goal of the legislation would be to allow the Secretary of State’s Office to move forward without the governor’s approval.
Senators supporting new legislation included White, Bray, Clarkson, and Vice Chair Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington. The committee’s lone Republican, Sen. Brian Collamore, of Rutland District, dissented from the majority.
Will Senning, director of elections and campaign finance for the Secretary of State’s Office, said there will be too many logistical challenges with preparing the ballots if there’s not a full commitment now.
“I just think it’s a very, very bad idea to leave this decision until after the primary in August. I think it’s untenable,” he said.
According to Senning, mailing ballots to 550,000 active voters will require the effort of two contracted mailing houses and cost between $300,000 and $600,000. Additional ballots will need to be printed and made available at polling places for voters who want to vote in person.
He added that his preference is to have the two mailing houses do a single mailing of ballots in September, but allow town clerks to handle individual requests that “dribble in” from some voters, following the standard absentee voter process.
Senning admitted that town clerks are divided over the proposal. “It truly is a mixed bag. I hear from clerks who strongly support the idea and those who don’t,” he said, noting that the Bennington town clerk supports expanded mail-in voting while the Rutland city clerk does not.
The proposal could run into opposition from Vermont voters as well. In a recent poll, 53% of registered voters in the Green Mountain State said election officials don’t have the ability to verify the identity of persons filling out mail-in ballots. Less than three in 10 thought mail-in voters could be identified. More than 70% of respondents said identification should be required for anyone to cast a vote.
Paul Burns, the director of the Vermont Public Interest Group (VPIRG), told the committee he believes universal mail-in voting is what the majority of people want.
“It has incredible public support — 72 percent of Americans now support voting by mail this upcoming general election. And if we did a poll in Vermont, my expectation is that the number would be even higher than that,” he said.
White said she thought the governor would be going against public sentiment if he doesn’t commit to the vote-by-mail initiative. She also strongly encouraged everyone not to use the phrase “vote-by-mail,” as it might lead some to think that in-person voting would be eliminated on Election Day.
As of Monday, Scott continued to insist on waiting until August to decide.
“I don’t know if there’s a wholesale change that is going to be at the appetite of anyone at this point,” he said during his regular COVID-19 media briefing.
If Scott prevails, the standard absentee ballot process could be used by any Vermonter who wishes to request a ballot and vote by mail.
Plainfield Town Clerk Carol Smith told True North on Monday that the status quo request process isn’t prohibitive, and typically involves a quick phone call to the clerk’s office or the secretary of state’s office. Online request options also are available.
Scott said Monday that, at least for the moment, the status quo will remain for the August primary election.
“I believe that [absentee ballots by request] is going to be the case for the primary in August and it will continue to be as traditional — you could ask for a ballot by absentee by request and it will be the same and the polls will be open like the status quo,” he said.
As for handling the logistics, Scott is urging election officials to put everything in place now, even if a final decision won’t be made until August.
“What I’ve said is let’s move forward just as we did with every other emergency situation,” he said. “Let’s get the ballots, let’s get the machines, let’s get everything that we need into place like we’re going to do it. But I’m just saying, we can’t print the ballots until after the primary anyhow.”
According to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, 28 million mail-in ballots have gone missing in the past decade. The problem of missing, misdirected or stolen ballots could become disastrous due to a severe funding crisis plaguing the United States Postal Service.
Regarding the safety of elections, other parts of the nation and the world have been carrying out in-person elections without incident. South Korea, a nation that does not allow mail-in ballots, held its elections safely without an uptick in new COVID cases.
The state of Wisconsin also held its primary election and had no known increase in virus cases.
Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB. Bruce Parker contributed to this report.
27 thoughts on “Senators regret giving Scott a say in mail-in voting, begin process to remove authority”
Without Voter ID, “Vote by Mail” is Just a Vehicle of Election Fraud !
Let’s hope that Governor Scott doesn’t folds “like a cheap suit” and that he stands up for the principle of Election integrity. If Condos and his Democrat cohorts” are truly only interested in making sure that Vermonters understand that they have the right to absentee vote by mail , why not have the Secretary of State’s office make an informational mailing and include a absentee request form so that those concerned can ask for them to be sent general election materials in September. Such a mailing would also allow the SoS Elections Division to clean-up the voter checklists, by using the tsunami of “requests” returned by the post office as undeliverable to remove the names of those “lost souls” from the voting rolls, Of course, they won’t do something sensible and economical like this, because they really desire to have the state awash in ballots just begging for someone to “harvest” complete and return.
The most interesting factoid that I notices was Will Senning’s statement that:
“According to Senning, mailing ballots to 550,000 active voters will require the effort of two contracted mailing houses and cost between $300,000 and $600,000. Additional ballots will need to be printed and made available at polling places for voters who want to vote in person.”
Wait a minute, in 2018 Vermont had just: “481,111 state residents on Vermont’s voter rolls, about 92.5 percent of the state’s approximately 520,000 eligible votes. (https://vtdigger.org/2018/10/16/vermont-hits-record-92-5-percent-voter-registration-ahead-election/) Vermont’s 92% number was unsurpassed in the country and was largely attributed to state’s new automatic voter registration system, which took effect in January 2017. At that time it was argued that more than 10% of the individuals on the voter rolls should be removed. In 2018, 278,230 votes were cast in Vermont – if a significantly larger number suddenly vote in 2020, will the up-tick be considered a great victory OR Election Day fraud ?
So people who don’t even know they are registered to vote, along with the dead who have not been removed from the voter checklists, out-of-state college students (who Condos actively solicited in 2018) and folks who have moved away and are still listed on the checklists will all be getting the chance to vote Democrat, Why should we be surprised ? Vermont’s election office has previously expressed the opinion that folks who are not currently residents, who intend to reside in a community in the future have a right to vote (Victory VT -2018) AND the ballots of individuals who cast a vote (in early voting) and pass away before election day should be counted !
Vermont’s Election process has been so corrupted that no one should be surprised by this last expensive power grab by “Jimmy C. and his Progressive and Democrat cohorts !”
You wouldn’t have this problem if the Governor just made the decision that he doesn’t want mail in voting or he does. Just make a decision and stop playing games and get it over with.
My guess is he will approve it because he is a Democrat in a Republican suit. He’s weighing his options as to what is best for him in case he decides to run again.
Exactly, his method of operation is usually to compromise first, someone should get him a copy of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal”, but as much as he likes throwing Trump under the bus, he probably wouldn’t read it anyway.
But your right, he can’t make a decision and stick to his guns, no courage of conviction!
Why are our dictators in such a tizzy about this? They already have the system rigged beyond redemption. This is obvious since Condos dismisses such a charge with ‘poof, nonsense, no problem’ and anything such as he utters has to be opposite of truth.
The bolsheviks need the premise of choice … thats all. How awful for Vermont. So sad its owned by the socialists. Prayers are needed. So glad i no longer live there.
No consideration for constitution? No other possible ideas?
This is because it was planned out ahead of time, they are not concerned about safety as there would be other logical solutions proffered. They vote and act as if we are a democracy, whereby the majority can take away the rights of the minority. This is the reason our founding fathers set up a constitutional republic, a land ruled by law, not the mob.
Aside from the results in Wisconsin proving it’s not a concern, we could go above and beyond. Part of the Agenda…..21 in fact. Are we going to do this every flu season? Logic, science and medicine are thrown out the window in unabashed claw for power, money and control.
We need a new spirit.
Notice how everyone consults lobbyists for opinions, these are unelected, paid hit men to push an agenda that is opposite of the people. It’ why we should tax lobbyists and PACS by at least 50%, they aren’t people, they can’t vote, but they can buy elections?
This would be a great tax for Vermont, a great first for Vermont, would bring in revenue and curb the power of hit men who are hired to go against the public.
Dem/Progs never let a good crisis go to waste.
They want the virus-scare to last to November ELECTION DAY.
Play it to the hill, with the hand-maiden Media helping out.
Get rid of Trump
Get rid of Scott.
Get rid of anybody standing in the way of more socialism, more state control and more state power
Mail-in voting is part of the Dem/Prog national platform, says Pelosi from Caliphonya.
Condos, Head of Elections, has been traveling all over the state, making scare-mongering speeches, and agitating for mail-in ballots;
“We have got to do this, and that, and do it NOW.”
Holcombe, Zuckerman, VPIRG, and assorted Dem/Progs, chiming in for mail-in as well.
In fact, not a single Dem/Prog legislator dares state an opposite view, for fear of being ostracized by the party elite.
All HAVE to 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
Condos has had a free rein NOT to use common sense.
Here is some real-world common sense:
If people have been going to grocery stores ALL OVER THE STATE (even in Burlington), 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 already held their RECENT elections by means of in-person voting WITHOUT AN UPTICK IN VIRUS CASE COUNT.
Vermont could have 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.
That TRADITIONAL approach would lead to MINIMUM FRAUD AND MAXIMUM TRUST.
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.
Condos should stop the fake handwringing and prevaricating and the scare-mongering.
There is no way Vermonters would agree to his indiscriminate mass-mailing of ballots to every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Some may have died, some moved to another state, some may be in jail and not eligible to vote, some may be illegal and/or undocumented.
There is no way for the Town Clerk to know, without people showing up with proper PHOTO identification, citizen papers, etc.
Vermonters do not give a hoot that mail-in voting is practiced elsewhere.
Those states likely are less SOCIALISTIC than Vermont, and people have less reason to fear their/mistrust government
Vermonters LOVE to go to their familiar voting booths.
Vermonters can already obtain an absentee ballot for what ever reason they may want. I know some who do this routinely just to better research the candidates they don’t know. We already have a mechanism in place for those who don’t want to go out to vote.
Why should we risk voting fraud issues and add greater expense with mail ballots for everyone? Covid concerns with reopening can better be assessed closer to the voting date. If our reopening policies are sufficiently guarded, we should be fine.
Vermont’s Covid numbers now would make those precautions seem unwarranted – a BIG THANKS to our sparse population and medical/govt. leadership oversight of Covid matters. Let’s all pray that it will stay that way.
To Governor Scott: Please do not follow the path of “Mail – In – Voting”. We already have absentee ballots for people. Mail – In – Voting will open the doors to so much voting fraud. A major problem in voting is that people do not physically go and inform their town/city hall changes in their lives such as: Moving to different a city/town/state, they die or there is a death in the family, or they are college students voting in Vermont and then go to their home state and vote again. Mail – In – Voting is just a bad situation waiting to happen!
When the lefties push so hard for something like “mail in” voting, you better wake up folks! If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck…. There is a reason why they want this so bad, and it isn’t to protect people from Covid-19. It is all about skewed results and winning at all costs. Can you imagine Zuckerman being Gov.? Phil Scott leaves a lot to be desired, but he is light years ahead of Zuckerman.
And everyone in Montpeculier is wringing their hands over loss of revenue, etc., but miraculously can find $300 to $600K to do somethings that is unnecessary, you have to smell a rat here.
The absentee ballot process works very well. If people don’t want to go to the polls, pick up the phone and call your town/city clerk. This allows for the proper check and balances to be a part of the process.
You would think that Phil Scott would realize by now that he has no real supporters on the other side of the isle. If he was a real leader he would put a stop to his own humility in believing he has fiends in the opposition party. They are not interested in good government, they want the power to change Vermont, control our freedom and destroy our customs. They are doing everything they can to try to remove him from office right in front of his eyes. They see the prize is at hand by stuffing ballot boxes with fraudulent mailed in ballots. The general public been frightened and is in panic mode because the only way they can remove Phil Scott is by cheating? Anyone with a brain knows this isn’t about the safety of the public. The only thing you can do in America without a means of Identification is vote, the most sacred of all things enshrined in our constitution. The ability of people to chose their own leaders.
IT seems that the Democrats, Liberals, Socialist and maybe even a communist or two want to take power away from the Governor. The voting citizens on this state had better give a lot of thought before making their X on a ballot. I doubt if Condos is worried about peoples health as much as he is about winning elections.
Thank god for Brian Collamore, what is wrong with the rest of the people on this committee? Did they not hear Will Senning say, this will cost between 300,000 & 600,000. At a time when this government shutdown has caused massive and serious financial harm to most Vermonters, and their answer is to pile on more taxes, for what?
I am a Justice of the Peace and in the at risk category, I also work the polls every election, my fear is not for my personal health, but for the health and integrity of our republic. It saddens me to see so many elected officials willing to sacrifice the sovereignty of our vote on such a flimsy premise of fear and crisis.
I fear mail in voting and these elected officials more than COVID-19!
Keep voting procedures in the hands of the Secretary of State???? Jim Condos??? Why give an idiot that kind of authority?? He knows that mail in will all but guarantees a desired outcome of electing like minded dreamers as the method is loaddd with all kinds of fraud. This kind of activity always favor the Dem/Progs as they know how to cheat. The means justifies the end.
Comrade Clarkson and Bray want to control everything and deny the governor any say in what this state does. A lot of people knew this would happen when the legislature became a lopsided extreme liberal party.
Did anyone expect any other answer from the ” Liberal Democrats “, of course,
they support mail-in voting and using this Wuhan Virus as a stepping stone for
their agenda is appalling, democrats motto ” never let a crisis go to waste ” and
this says it all !!
And what could possibly go wrong, how about fraud, things like missing or
stuffed ballots, deceased voting, and the list goes on.
Wake up people, this Wuhan Virus can be tragic, what’s really dangerous is the
liberal democrats agenda and their control, just look at the condition of the state
before this virus and what liberals have done to ruin the state, debt & taxes just
to name a few……………
You have to be some kind of stupid to believe mail in voting would be totally legit. Trust NO ONE
Just because some progressive Governor in California (Newsom) decides that voter fraud is more important than upholding a citizen’s right to vote for & elect the person of their choice DOES NOT mean Vermont must follow him down the Democratic Party path of destruction.
A mail-in vote law would automatically leave the doors wide open for the destruction of our Republic.
Your vote will mean NOTHING if you allow this to happen. DO NOT let the Republic of Vermont turn into Socialist Democrat Vermont where the people have no power over Government.
If South Korea and Wisconsin already held their RECENT elections by means of in-person voting WITHOUT AN UPTICK IN VIRUS CASE COUNT, Vermont could have 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 will have taken place as usual.
I will be running against Jeanette White and Becca Balint for Windham State Senate. I will be on the ballot as an independent but I encourage everyone to write my name in in the primaries.
I’m pro life, pro gun, pro liberty!
Our family will certainly be voting for you. And if you need a lawn to put up a sign, let us know.
Great news, Tyler!
Shudah, cudah, wudah?
If frogs had wings they would not bump their asses so hard.
It is a damned good thing Scott will scuttle mail-in voting.
It is called checks and balances.
There is absolutely no reason to have mail-in.
It is a total fabrication
People, including you and I, have been shopping in MARCH APRIL MAY at local stores and department stores, Walmart, Home Depot, etc., without any adverse consequences.
You and I, and almost all others, have absolutely no problem to show up at voting places in NOVEMBER, when the virus situation likely will be even less of an issue in Vermont.
I know the Dem/Progs would like to continue scare-mongering until just before the election in November, just to get even more votes and get rid of Scott, one a sane people in Montpelier
Shameless behavior it is!
Amen. PS We could shop with a bunch of people at boxmarts but our little mom/pop stores and businesses had to close. Scott used some serious non-logic in his decision process.
Yes, and continues to do so. Claiming to want and use science when opening the economy but we’ve never quarantined healthy individuals.
Are you running for senate this tome around Beverly?
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