Vermont on path to having least secure mail-in voting process in the country

By Matthew Strong

Following Secretary of State Jim Condos’ appearance on the WVMT radio show “Morning Drive,” where he was confronted by a caller claiming to be a Middlebury landlord who witnessed students “scooping up” and fraudulently submitting unclaimed or unwanted mailed ballots in the last election, we have been asking the secretary’s office for specific details regarding security measures, or lack thereof, in Vermont’s proposed vote-by-mail bill, S.15. So far, Eric Covey, spokesperson for the office, has been adamant that there is no fraud in Vermont, but evasive regarding specific questions about specific vulnerabilities in the system.

When asked about the caller from Middlebury, Covey dismissed the accusations, saying, “It is even going too far to call the remarks the caller made ‘allegations.’ The caller still has not contacted our office, which is what the secretary asked him to do, with information about what they said on air. … At this point, that claim is hearsay, or baseless conjecture at best.”

But, when asked if such an incident did happen either in Middlebury or elsewhere, how would Vermont election officials detect the fraud, trace it back to its source, and prosecute the criminals, Covey did not respond.

Kurt Wright, the co-host of “The Morning Drive” radio show where the allegations arose, has expressed concerns about Vermont election integrity for decades. Wright, who served the Burlington community for years as city council president, as a state representative for 18 years, and lost a bid for mayor due to the city’s since-repealed experiment with rank-choice voting, is intimately familiar with how elections work in practice.


Kurt Wright

“Just because we haven’t had proven fraud in Vermont, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take this very seriously,” Wright said, when interviewed by phone. “I’ve been concerned about the process for a long time. I even wrote articles for the Burlington Free Press as far back as 1996 highlighting issues such as ballot harvesting. I think if we are going to have a permanent vote-by-mail system, we need to provide protections and safeguards as if the voters were voting in person. The sanctity of each vote should be paramount.

“Back in 2005, the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform had dozens of recommendations to ensure the integrity and faith in American elections. Vermont has ignored them and continues to do so. Just like the Carter-Baker report, this should be a non-partisan issue.”

The commission Wright referenced was the result of the now famous 2000 election debacle in Florida culminating in a Supreme Court decision in favor George W. Bush. Jimmy Carter personally handed then President Bush the report upon completion five years later.

If S.15 passes into law — and it has already passed the State Senate 27-3 — it would make voting by mail a permanent feature of Vermont elections, but with almost none of the security measures noted in the Carter/Baker report, nor the measures utilized by the five states that have already adopted vote-by-mail systems. The only security measure to be included is an amendment by Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, to prohibit political candidates and their paid staffers from collecting and returning absentee ballots from voters during a general election, commonly known as “ballot harvesting.” Unpaid campaign volunteers, however, are not included in that restriction, nor are political parties, PACs, lobbyists, unions, or any other special interest group, making the Benning amendment almost totally ineffective at preventing the controversial practice.

How other states secure mail-in ballots

Here is what other states that have vote-by-mail programs do to maintain ballot integrity in their elections:

Oregon became the first state in the nation to conduct all statewide elections entirely by mail, in 1998. According at a 2018 news article by NBC, “In order to make sure voter rolls are up to date, Oregon election officials rigorously comb death notices, change of address forms, even track social security records. Ballots can be returned by mail, but the majority of marked ballots are returned via the state’s hundreds of secure drop sites. According to election officials, younger voters say they don’t like to use the post office. Once they’ve been collected and brought to one of 36 county election offices around the state, all ballots are checked for authenticity. Each signature is verified against voter registration cards. The authenticated ballots then go to the vote tallying room to be counted,” the report stated. For further security voters can ask for a text message confirming their ballot has been counted. They also use no scanning machines; all ballots are counted by hand.

Washington state also has signature verification for all mail-in ballots. In addition, ballots are removed from ballot boxes by teams of two people, ballots are processed and scanned but not tabulated until after polls are closed, each county’s tabulation system is “air-gapped” to prevent outside hacking, and ballot counts are checked before and after the results are uploaded to the Secretary of State’s office with new (previously unused) USB drives.

Colorado also has signature verification on all ballots. Candidates, political parties, and issue committees appoint election watchers to observe teams of bipartisan judges to verify every single ballot envelope signature matches the one on file before opening the envelope. Ballots differ in style by county to make ballots difficult to replicate. Ballot scanners are never connected to the internet. A ballot tracking system allows voters to see when the state mails their ballot and when it is returned to verify no one else sent it on their behalf. Colorado also bans large-scale ballot harvesting as it is illegal for anyone to return more than ten ballots on behalf of voters other than themselves.

Utah’s vote by mail system has been operational since 2012. Individual counties can opt in or out of using blanket-mailed ballots. Envelope signatures are compared to the signatures on file to verify the identity of the voter. Utah also has an online tracking system for voters to check the status of their ballots. Voters listed as “inactive” are NOT mailed a ballot. When a county clerk receives information that a voter has relocated, they send a card requesting an update from the voter. If the voter does not respond, they are listed as “inactive.” In 2020, there were approximately 200,000 inactive voters who were not mailed a ballot. Election officials conduct audits of vote counts and signature verification before certifying results. Every ballot has a unique barcode which is scanned when received to prevent duplicate voting, and if a voter votes twice (mailed and in person for example), the second ballot cast is intentionally spoiled.

Hawaii was the latest state to go to a vote-by-mail system, in 2020. They mailed signature cards to every registered voter in April, and any ballot received in the election without a signature on file was not counted. Moving forward all ballots will be signature verified with the signatures returned in 2020. Local and statewide elections with a victory margin less than one hundred ballots or 0.25% (whichever is greater) are now required to have a recount.

California used expanded vote by mail systems due to the pandemic is 2020. The ballot envelopes have unique barcodes which allow for correct district sorting and online voter tracking. Ballot envelope signatures are verified against voter registration signatures by machines and humans. Election officials constantly review vital records to purge voter rolls. Tabulation machines are not connected to the internet, and access is limited to a few staffers for increased accountability. Every county hand counts 1% of its ballots as a test. Some counties allow the public to observe ballot counting in action via public display windows in tabulation areas, and tabulation staff are never allowed to be alone with ballots.

Vermont vs. Everybody Else

Vermont Secretary of State's Office

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos

So how does Vermont and the proposed S.15 shape up? As Secretary of State Jim Condos stated in the interview on WVMT, two important things came to light. Vermont does not have a signature verification process, nor does S.15 plan for one. Not only that, but Condos noted there are very few signatures on file to compare if needed. There are no plans to use other forms of voter ID, such as a requirement to include a photocopy of a drivers license or other such verification of identity. This means anybody can send in an absentee ballot for someone else if they are willing to falsely sign the ballot return envelope with practically zero chance of being caught.

Condos also noted it is very difficult to remove voters from the roles, taking multiple election cycles to remove voters who are no longer in the state. Voters have to request to be removed from the roles to order to be removed in a timely fashion under current regulation, which is usually the last thing on people’s mind when they move. This means ballots will routinely be sent to tens of thousands of people every cycle who are no longer eligible to vote. Vermont does have ballot voter tracking for absentee ballots however.

What S.15 proposes to do is to mail hundreds of thousands of live ballots across the state, without signature verification, voter ID (as the Carter-Baker commission recommended), without efficient voter roll monitoring, and absentee ballots are commingled with in person ballots once town clerks are satisfied the ballot envelope has been filled out correctly and the name on the envelope is a registered voter and has not voted in person. Put another way, if the person fraudulently mailing unused ballot has a reasonable assurance the person the ballot was intended for isn’t going to show up in person, and fills out the envelope correctly, the likelihood of being caught is very low. And, if fraud is alleged, it will be difficult to investigate after the fact, and, because Vermont would allow ballot processing of early votes 30 days prior to election day, any frauduelent duplicate voting that took place prior to the legitimate voters showing up at the polls triggering a red flag would still be counted (could not be removed) in the final vote tally.

Even with the record turn outs of 2020, voter apathy is extremely high. Americans are one of the least active voting populations among developed countries, with the U.S. coming in at 31 out of 35 countries in voter turnout. In a 2019 Gallup World Poll, 59% of Americans said they were not confident in the honesty of the election process, which was an improvement from 2016’s poll which showed 69% of Americans did not have confidence in the honesty of the process. To put this into perspective, only two other countries in the poll had less confidence in their election process, Chile, and Mexico. In 2006, more votes were cast for American Idol contestants than any president had received in American history to date. A recent non-partisan poll says 72% of Americans support requiring all voters to provide photo identification in order to vote, including a majority of Democrats. The breakdown of those in favor were 56% of Democrats, 72% of Independents, and 91% of Republicans. As the Carter-Baker commission report stated, even the perception of the likelihood of fraud will cause Americans to lose faith and engagement in our most sacred of democratic institutions, and their recommendations still ring true as well.

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

17 thoughts on “Vermont on path to having least secure mail-in voting process in the country

  1. I believe Vermonters enjoy getting out to vote! We will be in major trouble with all mail ins. Ids need to be mandatory!!
    Look at the mess we are in from the last election! Wasted time and money. Cheating, I’ve read and listened to many stories of fraud. Get out to vote, unless handicapped or having to be away. Ids mandatory!!!

  2. Nine election reforms states can implement to prevent mistakes and voter fraud

    Some Ways to Prevent Fraudulent Elections

    Is there a requirement regarding the composition of the ballot paper?
    In the US, it would be tree fibers, but in China it would be rice fibers.

    What about running ballots more than once through the counting machines, while no one is looking, i.e., before regular hours, during regular hours, and after regular ours?

    What about requiring time-stamping ballots when they are run through the counting machine?
    What about dead people voting?
    What about felons voting, in or out of jail, or on parole?
    What about out-of-staters voting, whether they own a house in Vermont or not?
    What about non-citizens voting?
    What about illegal aliens voting, documented or not?
    What about under-age people voting?
    What about out-of-state students voting in Vermont and in their own state?
    What about mail-in ballot without fold-marks; would they be rejected or waived through?
    What about same-day registration and voting, often without proper documentation?
    What about people getting a driver’s license, and also getting automatically added to a registered voter list, even though they would
    not have proper documents on file with a Town Clerk?
    What about forensic counting of ballots? Inexpensive machines are available
    What about counting machines that can be connected to the internet? They can be hacked by anyone in the world.
    What about counting machines that have slots for inserting programmable cards? Such cards can be altered with a few lines of code by any computer programmer.

    Voter List Manipulation

    In Democrat-controlled Vermont cities and towns, feeding fake ballots (stuffing the ballot box) is a common practice.
    Manipulating voter lists provides corrupt election officials more names to “play” with, to enhance Democrat power and command/control.
    1) Not deleting dead people
    2) Not deleting people who moved to another state
    3) Enabling non-citizens and illegal aliens to vote (with documents, or not)
    4) Enabling temporary residents to vote, even if they would reside less time in state than required by law
    5) Enabling convicted felons to vote (in jail or not)
    6) Enabling under-age people to vote
    7) Enabling feeble-minded people in nursing homes to “vote”, by filling in their ballots
    8) Enabling out-of-state students to vote.

    NOTE: The Legislature of New Hampshire became Republican, because the “activist student vote” was absent. They likely also voted in their own states.

    Voter Irregularities and Illegalities

    Absentee ballots cast without statutorily required application
    Absentee ballots cast that arrived after Election day.
    Absentee ballots cast that were requested before and after statutory deadline
    Absentee ballots cast from addresses other than where voters legally reside.
    Absentee ballots cast that were returned by whomever on or before the postmark date
    Absentee ballots cast without a postmark
    Absentee ballots requested under the name of a registered voter, without his/her consent
    Dead voters registering and casing votes
    Double voters IN-STATE
    Felon voters
    Ghost voters
    Illegal ballot harvesting
    “Indefinitely Confined” voter abuses (Wisconsin)
    Juvenile voters, i.e., less than 18 years old.
    Mail-in ballots cast by voters who were registered after the registration deadline
    No address on file for voter
    Non-citizen voters
    No corresponding voter registration numbers, i.e., excess voters (Michigan)
    Non-registered voters, i.e., not on voter lists
    Out-of-state voters who voted in-state.
    Over-votes, i.e., more votes cast than registered in a district.
    Votes counted during poll watcher and poll observer abuses (Pennsylvania)
    Signature matching errors
    Voting machine irregularities, i.e., vote switching from Trump to Biden, unexplainable vote count spikes
    Vote cast by voters who were over 100 years old
    Vote cast by voters who vote in the wrong County

  3. VERMONT; An Urgent Job for the Vermont Legislature

    Why is Vermont not introducing ELECTION SAFEGUARDS?
    Why wait to the last minute?

    Update documentation for each legal REGISTERED voter
    PURGE voter lists of dead people and those who moved out of state.

    That is easy to do.
    Just access Social Security records, tax records, US Census records, etc., and compare with voter lists
    Where there is a will, there is a way

    Methods of Voting

    There are 3 methods of voting:

    1) Appear in person
    2) Send absentee mail-in ballots to Town Clerks
    3) Drop mail-in ballots in drop boxes located throughout various states. Typically, those boxes are unsupervised/unmonitored, which means the “chain of custody” is broken, i.e., in violation of election law.

    Town Clerks, etc., receive those ballots, and are required, by law, to verify, USING DOCUMENTS ON FILE FOR EACH REGISTERED VOTER:

    1) Voter has full signature; not just a scribble
    2) Voter has up-to-date voter IDs; not something 20 years old.
    3) Voter met residency requirements; utility bills, local and state tax bills, driver’s license, car registration, tax returns, social security record.
    4) Address must be physical domicile, i.e., not a parking lot, warehouse, business, PO box, etc.
    5) Residency should be at least 6 months.
    6) Voter is dead or alive,
    7) Voter met age requirements,
    8) Voter is a citizen, i.e., born in the US (copy of birth certificate, preferably notarized) or naturalized (copy of citizen papers)

    After checking all those criteria, Town Clerks, etc., mark the voters as having voted, on registered voter lists.
    The total of such markings is called the turnout, which is reported by Town clerks to State election officials.

    Ban out-of-state students to vote in their school state. They should vote in their own state, via an absentee ballot.

    Ban “no-excuse absent” voting. To qualify to vote Absentee: Voters would have to be:

    1) 75 years old or older,
    2) Absent from their precinct,
    3) Observing a religious holiday,
    4) Physical disabled,
    5) Providing constant care for someone with a physical disability, or
    6) Working “for the protection of the health, life, or safety of the public during the entire time the polls are open”

    Ban automatic voter registration, such a “motor-voter”, which would enable un-documented and non-citizens to vote

    Ban ballot drop boxes, which would minimize “ballot box stuffing”

    Ban universal mailing of absentee ballots: Voters should be required to provide identification when they request an absentee ballot application.

    Election officials and official campaign organizations would be allowed to distribute, but various outside groups and nonprofit organizations would be banned from sending absentee ballot applications to voters.

    Increase poll watcher access: No processing of ballots and subsequent counting of ballots, at any time, without adequate poll watcher observation.

    Ban “brand-new” residents from voting in runoff elections.

    Mandate monthly updates to election officials of voters who have died or moved out of state

    Repeal “permanent-early-voting”, which allows a voter to automatically receive a ballot by mail for every election.

    NOTE: Town clerks have stated they cannot check these criteria, because their records lack sufficient documentation.

    NOTE: Mail-in voting takes fraud opportunities to a whole new level, as was proven during the past election.

  4. New Hampshire Eection Results are even more Incredible

    – Republicans flipped the New Hampshire Senate from 14 D and 10 R to 10 D and 14 R, in 2020; a Republican gain of 4 seats
    – Republicans flipped the New Hampshire House from 230 D and 156 R to 187 D and 199 R, in 2020; a huge Republican gain of 43 seats!!
    – Yet, Joe Biden, who was 4th in Democrat primary, and Kamala Harris, who did not make it to the Democrat primary, won the state 52.7 to 45.4 to Trump.

    Dominion Counting machines are used in 85% of New Hampshire towns.
    Dominion Voting Systems owns the intellectual property of the AccuVote machines used in New Hampshire.

    • The Republican governor got over 60% of the vote yet it did not result in the Republican president being reelected ?

      • Phil is no Republican first off. Secondly, it’s not a conspiracy theory that the presidential election was rigged and stolen. It was. At minimum, key states illegally changed their voting laws which favored biden. Lies and actual negative things (hunter and “the big guy”) buried by your news. And lib justices refused to hear the cases. There is a ton more…
        I recognize you refuse to believe that and your msm is bolstering that belief. Unfortunately that’s the state we’re in these days. It’s an embarrassing time to be an American. I used to only say that about VT but the cancer is spreading.

  5. NEW HAMPSHIRE; An Urgent Job for the New Hampshire Legislature

    NH has a perfect opportunity to immediately revise NH voting laws.
    Strictly regulate the circumstances and methods of COUNTING the votes.
    None of the counting machines should be programmable by insiders and outsiders
    None should be connectable to the internet.
    None should have an insertable electronic card
    Abolish most absentee voting.
    Do not allow out-of-state students to register and vote. They would not be “deprived”, because they can, and should, vote in their own state.

    NOTE: The Legislature of New Hampshire became Republican, because the “activist student vote” was absent. They likely also voted in their own states. After all, every vote counts!

    Example of MAJOR COUNTING AND BALLOT BOX STUFFING Fraud in New Hampshire

    NOTE: If such COUNTING AND BALLOT BOX STUFFING frauds go on in New Hampshire, they would not happen in Vermont?

    The hand recount of the Windham (Rockingham District 7) New Hampshire House 2020 race revealed Dominion election counting machines shorted all four Republicans by about 300 votes. Gee, how is this possible?

    This was no a trivial matter. The difference was 1,363 votes out of 10,006 vote cast, 13.63%

    A forensic audit will determine the huge discrepancy between the election day results and subsequent recount of Windham’s November 3, 2020, State Rep. race where a difference of 1,363 total votes from just 10,006 ballots was uncovered.

    The Reveal of the COUNTING Fraud

    This fraud was revealed, because St. Laurent, Democrat, who lost by 24 votes, challenged the count, and got a recount.
    Soti, Republican, recovered the 297 votes falsely taken from him by sneaky Dem/Prog vote COUNTERS
    St. Laurent, had to give back 99 votes falsely attributed to him by sneaky Dem/Prog vote COUNTERS
    As a result, instead of losing by 24 votes, St. Laurent ended up losing by 420 votes!!! Yikes!!

    St. Laurent must not be glad he asked for a recount, because the recount of the votes of the other 3 Republicans showed each of them had been screwed out of about 300 votes as well, thanks to sneaky Dem/Prog COUNTING shenanigans.

    The thinking of the Dem/Progs must have been: “Heh, this is a close race. Maybe we can flip it”.

    Dem/Progs vote COUNTERS were:

    1) Holding back votes so they would not be counted in a timely manner, and/or
    2) Rigged the vote counting machines. See URL

    FRAUD No. 1
    Soti, Republican, before recount 4480 votes, after recount 4777 votes, gain 297 votes
    St. Laurent, before recount 4456, after recount 4357, a LOSS of 99 votes
    Margin, before recount 24, after recount 420.

    FRAUD No. 2
    Griffin, Republican, before recount 5292, after recount 5591 votes, gain 299 votes
    Azibert, Democrat, before recount 2787 votes, after recount 2808 votes, gain 28 votes
    Margin, before recount 2505 votes, after recount 2783 votes

    FRAUD NO. 3
    Lyon, Republican, before recount 4786 votes, after recount 5039 votes, gain 303 votes
    Roman, Democrat, before recount 3415 votes, after recount 3443 votes, gain 28 votes
    Margin, before recount 1371 votes, after recount 1646 votes

    FRAUD No. 4
    McMahon, Republican, before recount 5256 votes, after recount 5554 votes, gain 298 votes
    Singueau, Democrat, before recount 2764 votes, after recount 2782 votes, gain 18 votes
    Margin, before recount 2492 votes, after recount 2772 votes

  6. Why is this even an argument? We would spend less money, be happier, and satisfy everyone (especially immigrants) by making drivers licenses, training and testing “free” (yes our taxes pay for it, but they pay for most of it anyway right now) to the public. This solves both problems and for the small amount of cash we are talking it’s a great influx of security to our election systems. They just automated a bunch of it so you can do most things without going there.

    If we wanted to be truly free we wouldn’t require a license for driving, buying booze/cigarettes, getting tickets, or getting pulled over. I cant’ subscribe to the notion that the “most important right an American has” is less important than transportation, the ability to misuse a governmentally controlled substance, or talking to a government official.

    These arguments are tiresome and have been solved for a long time… Less government less problems.

    • You mean vote for a political candidate with your iPad, like you shop at Amazon?
      But Amazon requires a credit card and a password!

      You mean Condos would not require that to vote! Gee!

      Just let anyone vote?
      Dead or a live, moved away or not, under 18 or not, senile or not?

      Condos will say, it must be the right thing to do, because it worked for Amazon!
      Dem/Progs would agree with him, because Condos is the expert.

      Cleaning up voter lists is hard to do?
      I will clean up the voter lists, if you will give me $100, for every dead voter and every moved-away voter, etc.

      Why does Condos not have bar codes on envelopes, and watermarks on ballots.
      Why does Condos not require signature verification? Too much of a bother?

      It could be Condos and his toady staff are lazy and/or incompetent?

  7. If you want a free & fair election it’s pretty simple, On the day of the election go to your
    local polling location show a photo ID, and vote or ” request ” an absentee ballot with
    your signature verification……..Pretty simple

    Any other proposal is just looking for fraud or ballot manipulation, and this is how you win
    year after year. If Vermont’s elected officials don’t believe that we have voter fraud already
    then, they are part of the problem, a major part of the problem !!

  8. Mail -IN -Voting HAS to TO REQUIRE a VALID FORM of TRUE ID or SIGNATURE witnessed be either a Justice of the Peace or OTHER Government official to be a VALID VOTE. NO ID NO VOTE period.

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