This week I had the honor of reporting the bulk of S.15, the historic Vermont elections legislation that will make universal vote-by-mail the new normal for general elections. Another important provision gives Vermont voters the opportunity to fix small mistakes before the close of the polls (like forgetting to sign the certificate envelope) to make sure their votes count.
On Tuesday the bill passed on a roll call vote of 119-30 and appeared on its way to final passage Wednesday. Before the final reading however, an amendment was offered by Rep. Vicki Strong of Albany, with support from a handful of other sponsors. The Strong amendment would have taken the most important policies in the bill, universal vote-by-mail and the processes that will allow Vermonters to cure ballot defects, and push them off until the 2024 election. Supporters of the amendment cited concerns about the integrity of our elections and voter confidence in our systems, alluding to the national controversy in the wake of last year’s election.
House Government Operations took extensive testimony and found that the combination of our local election administration by our talented clerks and the online voter checklist maintained by them in partnership with the Secretary of State provides for a secure election system that Vermonters can count on. It will indeed be strengthened by S.15. Certainly there were lessons learned from the rushed vote-by-mail process of the 2020 election, but overall clerks and other elections officials deemed the 2020 general election a huge success. We worked with the clerks and others to resolve those challenges in S.15.
There has been no substantiated evidence of voter fraud in Vermont. Out of over 400,000 ballots mailed to Vermonters in the 2020 General Election only 7 reports of potential “duplicate” votes were reported – 6 of these were found to be administrative errors and 1 was a person intentionally trying to test the system – and that voter found that the system is secure. The system worked.
We all care about the integrity of our elections and the confidence of voters in our democracy. An important difference between Vermont and other states with vote by mail is that we have local election administration while other states, like Oregon have centralized processing of ballots. Voter ID laws and signature match are not supported by the Vermont Municipal Clerks and Treasurers Association or the Secretary of State as they would inevitably disenfranchise legitimate voters.
Legislation like the Strong amendment gives credence to the rampant misinformation that plagued voter confidence across the country during the 2020 election. It legitimizes the myth of voter fraud, propelled by social media and the former president, that some (including Congresswoman Liz Cheney) have called the “Big Lie”. I am proud that we were able to beat back this attempt to delay our work to improve Vermont elections. Vermonters trust each other. Vermonters trust our local election officials, and Vermonters want to vote by mail in 2022. We are now on a path to make that happen.
Rep. Mike McCarthy