(802) 479-2420 panthony@leg.state.vt.us
The Vermont House has given preliminary approval today to a sweeping package of new state election laws allowing for universal vote-by-mail in all future general elections.
This is an important bill to expand voter access and encourage increased participation in our democratic process. The roll call vote was 119 in favor, 30 against.
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 Vermont, vote-by-mail (with postage-paid return envelope) 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).
S.15 builds on the work that was done to help Vermonters vote safely during 2020 in several ways. It creates new provisions for town clerks to cure defective ballots, if for example, residents forget to sign the certificate envelope, or fail to return unvoted primary ballots along with the voted ballot of the party of their choice.
The legislation also provides for expanded access by providing secure ballot drop boxes that are accessible 24/7 for voters to return their ballots; it also limits the number of ballots someone can deliver on behalf of others.
Using these new forms of voting for local, ‘Town Meeting’ elections is purely voluntary subject to decisions by the Bd. of Civil Authority. . And of course any mail-in procedures apply to Australian balloting.only.