MONTPELIER — With less than a week until Election Day, voters are wondering what to expect at the polls on Tuesday.
More than 221,000 Vermonters have already voted, representing almost 70 percent of the total votes cast in 2016, according to Secretary of State Jim Condos.
“You can still vote early or at the polls on Election Day,” Condos said.
On Wednesday, Condos laid out what voters can expect if they opt to go to the polls.
When voting in person, voters should bring these three things:
1. Their ballot. If you received a ballot by mail, bring it with you. If you did not receive a ballot by mail or misplaced it, you will be asked to fill out an affidavit stating that you have not already voted. Voting twice in Vermont is illegal and carries a fine of up to $1,000.
2. Bring a black pen. It should not be a Sharpie, because they can bleed through to the back, resulting in a spoiled ballot.
3. A mask.
Election officials will have masks to hand out to those who lack them, as well as pens for those who didn’t bring one.
The state has sent kits to all towns with personal protective equipment for election workers and sanitizers for regular cleaning.
There is still time to cast an early ballot.
However, voters should not mail their ballots at this point, because Vermont only counts ballots received on or before Election Day. Ballots received after Tuesday, even if they were mailed before Tuesday will not be counted.
To submit a ballot received in the mail you may:
1. Bring it to your town clerk’s office during open hours.
2. Leave it in a drop box at the town clerk’s office.
3. Bring it to your polling place on Election Day.
When leaving a ballot in the drop box or bringing it to the clerk’s office, you must complete the certificate envelope, sign the certificate envelope and then seal your ballot in the envelope for it to be counted. Ballots which are not in the envelope or where the envelope isn’t signed aren’t counted.
In a typical election about 1 percent of ballots aren’t counted because of mistakes with returning early ballots, according to Condos.
What if I haven’t registered yet?
It is possible to register in Vermont up to and on Election Day. On Election Day, you will need to register in person. Before then it is still possible to register at the Secretary of State’s website or by going to your town clerk’s office.
I mailed in my ballot, but now I’ve changed my mind. Can I change my vote?
No. Vermont has no provisions for changing your vote. It is illegal to vote twice.
What if when I go to vote, election workers say I already returned my ballot?
In that case, the voter will be asked to sign an affidavit saying they have not already voted and will be given a provisional ballot. The clerk will alert the Secretary of State’s office and an investigation will be done to determine if the person has not, in fact, voted. If they have not, then the ballot will be counted, Condos explained.
“In our experience, there is almost always a simple explanation,” said Condos.
What about poll watchers?
In Vermont, any member of the public may observe voting from an area designated for that purpose by the local Board of Civil Authority. That area is placed so that observers cannot see how individuals are voting.
Anyone who interferes with a voter attempting to vote is subject to a $1,000 fine.
However, it is possible to challenge someone’s right to vote at the polls on Election Day on two grounds:
1. That person is not on the voter checklist.
2. The person has already voted.
Anyone who intends to challenge voters on Election Day needs to submit a letter stating their intent to do so to the town clerk by Friday in order to allow clerks time to create a space for them at the polls that is properly socially distanced, said Condos.