Vermont House and Senate pass vote-by-mail bill

-A A +A

Vermont House and Senate pass vote-by-mail bill

Tue, 05/18/2021 - 4:31pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Today, the Vermont Legislature sent to the governor, S15, a bill which makes universally mailed ballots a permanent feature of Vermont’s general elections. The bill also allows voters to fix or “cure” a ballot if it has been deemed defective. At his Tuesday press briefing, Governor Scott said he would sign the bill once it received the usual legal vetting and reached his desk. He also said he hopes that this type of voting will be expanded to all types of elections.

The general election typically gets the highest percentage of the electorate involved, but it is the local elections which sometimes draw scant turnout. He said this kind of ease-of-voting option for local elections could increase participation.

Champions of the bill in the House and Senate shared the following statements: 

“When we make voting more accessible, more people vote. When we make voting more accessible, democracy better reflects the will of the people. Voting is one of the most sacred rights and responsibilities that we have,” said Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint. “From same day registration to early voting, our state has a strong track record of making it easier for people to vote. I'm proud that this legislature is contributing to that legacy by making mail-in voting the rule for general elections from now on. We have to do all we can to ensure that all eligible voters can easily cast their votes and have equal participation in the work of our state and our nation." 

“The passage of our bill sends a clear signal that we believe our democracy is stronger when we make it more accessible and open to all Vermonters,” said House Speaker Jill Krowinski. “S.15 counters the prevailing trend across the U.S. where state legislatures are curtailing voter access with more restrictive election laws. According to the Brennan Center for Justice as of March 24, legislators had introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states. In the 2020 general election resulted in a 74% participation rate (from 68% in 2016), as well as a dramatic spike in early-voting to 75% (from 30% in 2016) and this bill creates the opportunity for strong voter turn for years to come.”   

“When you live in a democracy you get better government when every eligible voter is able to participate in elections,” said House Government Operations Chair Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas. “While many states around the country are passing laws that put barriers in the way of voters, S. 15 makes our democracy stronger by putting a ballot in every voter's hand.” 

“Three out of four Vermont voters cast their ballot early or by mail in 2020 and the turnout was historically high. S.15 builds on that success and incorporates many of the lessons we learned to make future vote-by-mail elections even better,” said Rep. Mike McCarthy. “We must make sure that every vote counts, so I am especially proud of the opportunity this bill gives voters to work with clerks to fix simple mistakes before the polls close, like forgetting to sign the certificate envelope containing their ballot. S.15 is an important step in our on-going efforts to increase voter participation and make it easier for Vermonters to participate in our democratic process.” 

“Elections are the foundation of our democracy and it is important that every voice is heard,” said Sen. Jeanette White, Chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee. “This bill will allow every single voice to be heard while our great elections officials, town clerks, Boards of Civil Authority, and Secretary of State will continue to ensure the integrity of our elections.” 

Secretary of State Jim Condos issued the following statement applauding members of the Legislature for this monumental expansion of voter access.

“If enacted, S.15 will be the largest expansion of Vermont voter access in decades.

"While state legislatures across the country are using conspiracy theories and outright lies as justification for restricting the Constitutional rights of their citizens, Vermont is poised to become one of the most voter friendly states in the country with the passage of S.15.

"We should be proud of our brave state. While others are working to make it harder to vote, in Vermont we are working to remove barriers to the ballot box for all eligible voters, while strengthening the security and integrity of the voting process.

"I want to thank the legislative leaders who worked hard on this critical legislation, including Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint and Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski, and extend a special thank you to the Chairs of the Government Operations Committees, Senator Jeanette White and Representative Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who worked incredibly hard with their committees to craft this landmark bill.

"I also want to recognize Vermont’s hardworking Town and City Clerks, who keep the front door open to democracy for Vermonters. Their input shaped this legislation, and their hard work ensures that Vermont elections are secure, accurate and accessible.

"I firmly believe that our democracy is stronger when we all vote. Your vote is your voice, and S.15 will make using that voice even more accessible for all Vermonters.”

"S.15 was passed with strong support from Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, and independents. In addition to the mailing of ballots to all active registered voters, S.15 contains other important voter provisions, including new pathways for voters to cure defective ballots if they make a mistake on their ballot return, as well as a requirement to study and report back on further improvements to access, including expanding mail voting to primaries and local elections.

"The bill does not remove any existing voting options, including voting at the polls on Election Day, but provides voters with new methods of receiving and casting their ballots.

"The Secretary of State’s office mailed ballots to all voters for the 2020 General Election due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Vermont voters embraced voting by mail, shattering prior records for total turnout and early voting."

Today, Secretary Condos issued an op-ed detailing the existing or newly created security measures in place that protect the integrity of Vermont elections, which can be found HERE.

Source: MONTPELIER, VT – Office of the Pro Tem  5.18.2021