Poll: Two-thirds of Vermont voters support making mailed ballots permanent

Key Senate committee backs legislation to make it happen

Vermont Business Magazine According to a new poll released today, Vermont voters are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the practice of mailing a ballot to every voter, a policy that was put in place by state leaders on a temporary basis last year.

The poll, conducted by the independent firm Lincoln Park Strategies on behalf of the nonprofit organizations RepresentUs and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, found that 68 percent of Vermont voters want to keep vote by mail, while just 29 percent oppose it.

Vermont experienced record voter turnout in 2020 after each active registered voter was mailed a ballot at home. Approximately 75 percent of voters returned their ballots by mail or by depositing them in a local drop box.

See selected results below.

“Tens of thousands of Vermonters filled out their ballot from home for the first time in 2020 to keep themselves and others safe,” said Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG. “The program worked so well that nearly 45,000 more Vermonters voted in the middle of a pandemic than had ever voted before. And now that they’ve seen how safe and convenient it is to have their ballot mailed to them, they ’re not interested in going back to a system that makes it more difficult to vote.”

Legislators are apparently getting that message as well. The Senate’s Government Operations Committee voted 4-1 today in favor of a bill to make universally mailed ballots a permanent feature of Vermont’s general elections. The bill (S.15) also allows voters to fix or “cure” a ballot if it has been deemed defective. A common defect is when a voter fails to sign the inner security envelope when returning a ballot.

The poll found 78 percent of voters favor allowing small mistakes to be cured so that otherwise-valid ballots can be counted. This curing provision was not available to voters last year when nearly 1,500 ballots were not counted due to defect.

“These data indicate very strong public support in Vermont for making permanent the system of voting utilized in last year’s general election, along with at least one key improvement,” said Stefan Hankin, President of Lincoln Park Strategies. “There is no question that a large majority of Vermont voters would like to continue to receive their ballots through the mail, and they believe that all voters should be given an opportunity to fix or ‘cure’ small mistakes so the ballots can be counted.”

In findings unrelated to voting by mail, the survey confirmed the current popularity of Gov. Phil Scott. Seventy-nine percent of voters have a favorable or very favorable opinion of Gov. Scott, while just 13 percent have an unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of him. Interestingly, self-described Progressive voters have a more favorable opinion of Gov. Scott than Republicans do at the moment.

Members of Vermont’s federal delegation, Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch, are all quite popular as well, though their favorable-to-unfavorable ratings are not as strong as the governor’s right now.

Senator Leahy is viewed favorably or very favorably by 65 percent of voters, while 24 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. Meanwhile, Sen. Sanders has a 69 percent favorable rating and a 28 percent unfavorable rating.

The State Legislature has a favorable rating of 58 percent, while 18 percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion of the body.

Republican lawmakers across the country have proposed a wave of new restrictions on voting in recent weeks. But these anti-democratic reforms have little traction in Vermont. The poll found that 92 percent of Vermont voters believe that it is important to make voting as easy as possible.

“Vermonters are largely united in the belief that we should make voting easier, not more difficult,” said Burns. “We applaud Chairwoman Jeanette White (D-Windham) and the members of her Senate Government Operations committee who voted today to advance legislation that will make voting from home easier for all Vermonters.”

The Lincoln Park Strategies survey of 500 Vermont voters who voted in 2020 was conducted Feb. 16 to 18, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.8% at the 95% confidence level.

VPIRG is a nonpartisan public interest advocacy organization with more than 40,000 members and supporters across the state. VPIRG believes that our democracy works best when as many people as possible participate and has been working for nearly 50 years in support of policies that encourage public participation and reduce the influence of special interest money in our elections process. In 2021, VPIRG is working with a broad coalition of organizations in support of legislation to make universally mailed ballots a permanent feature of all general elections in Vermont, while preserving in-person voting options for those who need or prefer that.

RepresentUs is the leading anti-corruption organization that is unrigging America's broken political system. Co-Founded in 2012 by Josh Silver and Joshua Graham Lynn, they are leading a non-partisan movement of Americans dedicated to putting power back in the hands of the voters. Corruption and a rigged system have halted progress on the issues that Americans care most about, from healthcare to education to government spending.

Through the continued passage of state and local laws that fix our broken elections, fight against gerrymandering, stop political bribery, and end secret money, RepresentUs advocates for the federal passage of the bi-partisan American Anti-Corruption Act (aka the For The People Act in Congress) to restore a government that is once again by and for the people. To date, the movement has passed 114 transformative anti-corruption acts and resolutions in cities and states across the country—and in 2018 passed more anti-corruption reform than in any other year in America's history.

Source: Montpelier, VT – VPIRG 2.23.2021