By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record
The first controversial issue to emerge in this strange legislative session centers on how to conduct elections this fall.
Secretary of State James Condos proposes to mail out absentee ballots to every person on the Vermont check list, with instructions and presumably a return envelope.
Gov. Phil Scott is concerned that under the direction of Condos, a Democrat, this procedure will open the door to partisan voter fraud. A promising technique for that chicanery is canvassers descending on voters the day these ballots arrive, urging them to vote for their favorite candidates (invariably liberals), and even offering to take the ballot, mark it, and send it back to be counted. This is called “vote harvesting.”
For example, a large organization committed to sweeping measures to defeat climate change, including a carbon tax, could send its trained army of summer canvassers out, collect ballots, mark them for candidates committed to waging war on climate change, and send them in. Very helpful. Also very fraudulent.
The governor wants an impartial five-person panel to supervise this process. Condos of course wants control. We love Condos’ record on open government but have some residual questions about his impartiality based on his partisan record as a councilman in South Burlington and a Chittenden county Senator.
Caledonia-Orange Senator Joe Benning is arguing for a far better idea, backed by Lyndon town clerk Dawn Dwyer. They say send out post cards to all voters offering them the opportunity to apply for absentee ballots, as under current law.
We think Sen. Benning and Town Clerk Dwyer are exactly right. This process will cost much less and is essentially fraud proof, because the Board of Civil Authority in each town will examine and verify registered voters who apply.
The governor should back off from his five-person panel idea, insist on the application process that leaves town Boards of Civil Authority in charge of ballot verification, tell the Secretary of State to keep his hands off, and if necessary ask the legislature to back him up.
Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.