You Ask. We Take Action.: Absentee ballots, early voting in Vermont

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Early voting has been underway in Vermont for several weeks.

Robert, a Local 22 & Local 44 News viewer, has concerns about the condition of his absentee ballot once it is returned in the mail.

Since there is no party registration in Vermont, each voter is given a ballot for every party.

The voter fills one out and then sends all of them back in an envelope.

Robert wanted us to ask Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos: “Would the slightest tear or folding make a ballot unreadable and then voided?”

Condos says no.

“We actually addressed that earlier this year when we ordered new envelopes,” he said. “All votes for all ballots we receive will be counted.”

Condos says, worst case scenario, if a machine can’t read a ballot, a replacement ballot can be filled out on the voter’s behalf.

“That requires two people, one from each party to transfer that information to a new ballot in order to go through the machine,” he explained.

The city of Montpelier has seen a steady stream of early voters this summer.

“A few weeks ago, it was pretty sleepy. It was slow. It was probably the slowest one I’d seen honestly. But in the last two or three weeks it has really kicked in here,” said Montpelier City Clerk John Odum. “Now we’re looking at a turnout that’s higher than usual for a primary honestly.”

Odum thinks that’s due to a lively state senate race in his area, but it could be reflected statewide.

Secretary of State Condos says, as of Monday, 11,000 absentee ballots have been requested.

“The last midterm election was 2014 and they had a total that year of a little over 6,000 that were actually requested during the whole period,” he explained.

Next Tuesday is the first time same-day registration is available in a statewide election in Vermont.

Condos says it’s a helpful tool if a cybersecurity doomsday scenario occurs.

“If something were to ever happen to our voter registration database, although we think it’s well protected, this provides an avenue where someone would never be denied at the polling place,” he said.

Condos announced Thursday the MIT Elections Performance Index has ranked Vermont as the #1 highest performing election administration in the country, based on the 2016 election season.

Indicators include voter turnout, number of rejected ballots, wait time and others.

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