Is the Vermont elections system free, fair, and pure?

It is our duty as Vermont citizens to hold our elected officials accountable to the law

VERNON — For those of you who may not know, the Nov. 8 general election ballots are being mailed to all individual voters on all Vermont city and town voter checklists under the control of the Vermont Secretary of State's Office.

Town clerks in the state used to have control of the general election ballots, mailing some to those requesting absentee ballots and military ballots. The majority of ballots were held by town clerks for use by voters in individual cities and towns as they came out to their polling places on Election Day to cast their votes.

The Vermont election system was remade in May of 2021. The Legislature voted to make permanent the all-mail election system used in the state during the Covid emergency. This election reform was passed with no safeguards, security measures, or requirements for voters to show IDs.

An amendment was proposed in May of 2021 to put security measures in place for the all-mail ballot system. Legislators voted down proposed security measures, claiming the amendment would delay the implementation of the all-mail-ballot system.

In spite of the testimony of those who work directly on Vermont's elections and the problems that arose as the all-mail election system was first used in the general election of 2020, the Legislature hurriedly pushed through making the emergency voting measures permanent.

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The ballots for the general election on Nov. 8 were mailed out approximately three weeks ago. Due to the reports of extra ballots and/or ballots mailed to persons at wrong addresses, the Vermont GOP has instituted an Excess Ballot Reporting Form.

Vermont town clerks are the persons who work most directly on voter checklists. Despite their best efforts to purge their records, there will always be a percentage of voters on the rolls who have met the statutory requirements to be removed. This remains an unaddressed problem with the implementation of the all-mail ballot system, as all voters on all voter checklists throughout Vermont are mailed ballots.

The Legislature's remake of the election system came on top of a previous state mandate to use voting tabulator machines to count election votes. Before, paper ballots were counted - in many cases, by Vermont Citizens in their own Towns. Many Vermont voters do not trust machines to count their votes.

Vermont's elections system allows same-day voter registrations, DMV registrations, online registrations, and registrations solicited by those other than election officials. Many Vermonters are asking: What safeguards are in place to stop non-citizens from registering to vote? Both the United States and Vermont constitutions declare U.S. citizenship a requirement for a person to vote.

What used to be Election Day in Vermont has been changed to more than an “Election Month,” as the ballots are received approximately 40 days before the actual designated Election Day on the second Tuesday in November.

Another questionable practice is the use of outside, unattended, ballot boxes for dropping off completed ballots at all hours. The chain of custody requirement for ballots has been erased.

Legislators voted down a bill in June of 2020 to prohibit “ballot harvesting.” This controversial practice allows campaign operatives/activists to collect ballots from voters and raises concerns about improper influence over voters, the fraudulent filling out of ballots, and the destruction of ballots.

The Vermont Constitution also calls out another questionable election practice in its section “Freedom of Elections; Bribery.”

No person seeking to be elected is supposed to directly or indirectly give, promise, or bestow, any reward as a connection to acquire votes. How many of our existing Vermont elected officials use their offices and positions to do favors and give special treatment to individuals to garner their continuous votes?

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With all of the varied practices and moving pieces that make up our present Vermont election system, is it a free, fair, and pure system without corruption as our Vermont Constitution declares it will be?

What can citizens do to have a redress of this matter as the state Constitution allows?

In Article 20 - the “right to assemble, instruct and petition - the Constitution says that “That the people have a right to assemble together to consult for their own common good - to instruct their Representatives - and to apply to the Legislature for Redress of Grievances, by address, petition or remonstrance.”

Did your state representatives and senators vote in May of 2021 for the remaking of the Vermont election system? Do you agree with their vote? One way to bring accountability is to vote out those who voted “yes” for the present Vermont election system.

Vermont citizens can also choose to get involved:

• Sign up to be election workers and poll watchers to bring accountability to elections.

• Run for elected office or justice of the peace in your town to be a voice on your Town Board of Civil Authority.

• The latest version of Vermont election laws are easily available online. Please consider looking them up, and see for yourself the tools that are available for citizen participation.

It is our duty as Vermont citizens to hold our elected officials accountable to the law. Our constitutional republic cannot exist without citizen participation.

As described in Article 6, “That all power being originally inherent in and co[n]sequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them.”

Our votes are our personal choices to play a part in selecting ethical, honest, and lawful elected Leaders who will serve “we, the people.”

Please participate, register, and exercise your privilege and freedom to vote.

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