As Vermont slowly re-opens, we legislators are taking up many bills to help our state adapt to life during the COVID-19 pandemic. On most of these efforts, members of all parties in the House and Senate have worked with the Governor to get the work done and protect Vermonters health as well as the economy, as best we can. Now it’s time for us to come together and make sure every Vermont voter has safe access to our democracy by expanding our existing early and absentee voting system.
Wisconsin held their presidential primary on April 7. Unlike Vermont, where about 30% of voters cast ballots early in 2016 and 2018 elections, Wisconsin has little experience with mail-in voting. Wisconsinites were forced to choose between protecting their safety and standing in line for hours, often in cramped circumstances that didn’t allow for social distancing to cast their balance. No Vermonter should have to make that choice.
Looking ahead to the August 11 primaries and the November 3 General Election, we passed H.681 on March 25. The bill was signed into law as Act 92 by Gov. Scott on March 30 and Sec. of State Condos, in consultation with the Governor, temporary authority to change the way we hold elections during the COVID-19 emergency.
Secretary of State Condos and his team are exploring options to make our upcoming elections safe and discussing those ideas with Governor Scott. We will almost certainly see more opportunities for Vermonters to vote early by mail this year. Polling locations will also be open in some safe, modified way. We’re fortunate that Vermont has been increasing access to the polls even before COVID-19, with a 45 day window for early voting as well as same-day voter registration on election day. Voting early by mail will reduce the number of people who need to go to the polls to vote, and decrease the risk to poll workers and voters who need to vote in person.
Voting early is easy and safe. You can get started with early voting at your “My Voter Page” (https://mvp.vermont.gov/). There you can confirm that you are registered to vote, then sign in with some basic personal information. Once you log in, you’ll see your own personal voter page with lots of information, including how to contact your town clerk, your polling location and upcoming election dates.
The My Voter Page allows you to request a ballot for both the August primary and the November general election at the same time. The request will be sent to your local town or city clerk, who will mail your ballot to you when it’s ready. You’ll mail the ballot back to your town clerk for counting at election time. For the August 11 primary, the Secretary of State will deliver ballots to local town clerks by June 19, so you should receive yours in the mail by late June or early July. The return postage will be pre-paid using funds from the federal CARES Act.
Please join me in requesting an early vote ballot this year. The more of us who vote by mail, the better we’ll be able to preserve safe access to polling locations for our upcoming elections on August 11 and November 3.
Be well and stay safe,
Representative Mike McCarthy