Jim Condos: Real voter fraud is suppression and intimidation

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos.

I’ve never been known to sugarcoat things, so I’m going to be frank. Recent events are causing increasing concerns that our democracy is in peril. Let me explain.

Voting is the foundation of our democracy. Since my first day as secretary of state, and before that as a state senator, I’ve worked to encourage voter participation by breaking down barriers to ensure eligible Vermont citizens are able to vote.

First, let me say I am proud to live in a state where our focus is on increasing access to the ballot box. To this end, we’ve made great progress in Vermont.

In January, we implemented same-day voter registration, making it easier for Vermonters to register and vote on Election Day.

Also in January, with the Department of Motor Vehicles, we implemented automatic voter registration – when an eligible voter receives/renews their license at the DMV they are either registered to vote, or their registration updates their current address, providing for more accurate voter lists and even greater election integrity.

Both same-day and automatic voter registration passed Vermont’s Legislature with strong tripartisan support, and I was proud to initiate and support these important objectives.

Here’s the point: Because voting is the foundation of our democracy, government has a responsibility to make voting easy and accessible for every eligible voter. Unfortunately, across this country, we are seeing an increased erosion of voting rights in many states.

I am deeply troubled by the announcement that the president signed an executive order establishing a commission to review alleged voter fraud in our elections. Since the 2016 election, President Trump has made repeated unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud. Credible studies have shown over and over again that widespread voter fraud simply does not exist, and election officials from across the country, Democrat and Republican, agree.

So why the brazen claims of widespread voter fraud?

These attacks on voting rights have a sole aim: to disenfranchise lower-income, student, senior and minority voters. It’s that simple, and the courts have started to recognize this.


I believe these unproven claims are an effort to set the stage to weaken and skew our democratic process through a systematic national effort of voter suppression and intimidation.

Let’s be honest: The real voter fraud that is occurring is the active campaign to roll back voting rights. The president’s unsubstantiated claims have emboldened these efforts. Photo ID laws, like those in Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Alabama, force citizens to travel over 100 miles to their closest DMV, even though they might be poor, disabled or unable to drive. Other states have also pursued enactment of some form of voter ID law, many of which have been found by the courts to be outright unconstitutional.

Restrictions on early voting periods, limiting access, due to distance or time, to registration and voting locations, and overly aggressive purging of eligible voters from voter rolls are all examples of ways in which some states are suppressing voter participation and discouraging certain eligible voters from having a voice in elections.

These attacks on voting rights have a sole aim: to disenfranchise lower-income, student, senior and minority voters. It’s that simple, and the courts have started to recognize this.

The fact that Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach have been announced as chair and vice chair of this commission confirms my worst fears. Both are unabashed supporters of restrictive voter ID laws, as they exaggerate claims of voter fraud.

Secretary Kobach has championed some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. The leadership of this commission is a clear prelude to what I expect to be a reinvigorated nationwide campaign promoting strict voter suppression laws and voter intimidation.

How do we fight back? We start at home and lead by example. Automatic voter registration is a system every state, regardless of the party in power, can and should support. Everyone should stand behind generous early voting periods and ample registration opportunities right up to, and even on the same day as an election.

Our Vermont elections will continue to put voters first.

In the coming months and years ahead, we need leaders to stand up and denounce these attacks on our democratic ideals. We must make decisions about how we conduct our elections based on facts, not fear. We cannot allow the president’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud scare us into unravelling the threads of our democratic process.

We must continue to move forward, not backwards – our democracy is at stake.

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  • Jon Corrigan

    Perhaps, Mr. Condos, you should stick to the problems in Vermont before you launch a half-cocked effort to denigrate any other state. You could start by informing the various Town Clerks on the proper procedures for citizens to challenge the voter list, since they apparently have no knowledge on that topic. The response I received was ‘I don’t know. Nobody’s ever done that before.’
    No citizen should have to waste their own time and effort to educate our elected officials on Vermont law. I thought that was your job, but you’re otherwise occupied with what’s happening in other states.

    • Christopher Daniels

      I hope you acknowledge Mr. Condo’s cordial and on-point response to your comments. It’s great when our elected officials interact with citizens in a respectful and friendly manner, even when the courtesy is not extended both ways.

      • Jeff Noordsy

        Hear, hear.

    • Phil Greenleaf

      Speaking of half cocked efforts – what’s with your interest in challenging voter lists? The point of Condos’ commentary was obviously to put Vermont’s efforts in national context. Let’s recognize the leadership most of our public officials usually show instead of knee jerk ideology bashing.

  • Thank you Jim Condos for speaking out on this extremely important topic. It is a sad state of affairs that we have one national and state level party, the Republican, that has as a centerpiece the attack on our voting rights.

  • Jim Condos


    Thanks for your comment – let me explain 3 points:
    1. There is no procedure in the law that allows citizens to “challenge the voter list”, which is probably why the clerk said that “no one has ever done that before”. It is simply not allowed by law.

    2. Last week we did send a detailed bulletin to every city/town clerk in the state describing the law and process for reviewing the voter checklist and sending challenge letters. We also sent a detailed guidance document as well as a step-by-step manual for performing the actions in the system. So, in fact, the SoS office has just spent a significant amount of “time and effort to educate our elected officials on Vermont law”

    3. If you are so interested in taking part in the proper maintenance of the checklist , every town (unless a charter provision) has a Board of Civil Authority of which Justices of the Peace are members. We know that towns are always looking for volunteers to run – maybe you should consider it.

    • Phil Greenleaf

      Jim – now you might need to respond to Chris Wilmot’s assertion that drivers license registration is triggering landslide Democratic victories in Vermont. Thanks for your other response as well. KUTGW.

    • Steve Baker

      Why have VOTER roles?

    • Jon Corrigan

      Thank you for your response Mr. Condos. Having lived in eight different states and three foreign countries during the last couple of decades, I’ve had my share of problems exercising my right to vote by absentee ballot, among other things. When your ‘mailman’ consists of a helicopter dropping a bag on the deck of a ship, it can present problems. I also appreciate the fact you’re keeping our town clerks up-to-date on sending challenge letters.

      Since moving back to the State of my birth, I now voluntarily serve on two town commissions and have donated a good portion of my time working with our local American Legion. I certainly will pursue becoming a member of our local BCA; given the fact there’s a paucity of younger people willing to volunteer to do anything, I look forward to becoming more involved than I already am.

  • JohnGreenberg

    Excellent piece, Jim Condos. Thank you.

  • chris wilmot

    This state not only complicity allows illegals to remain here flaunting the law – they also allow them access to a vt issued drivers licencse.
    Considering vermont ignores federal laws- who is to say illegals are not automatically registered to vote when getting said licenses? As per law?

    And no- I don’t trust our politicians who complicity ignore federal laws saying that’s not the case…

    • Jim Condos


      Thanks for your comment.

      You are correct that DMV is issuing a form of driver’s license to non-citizens.

      This was, of course, a key concern of our office as we designed the automatic voter registration system. In short, the system is designed so that any transfer of information from DMV to SOS for voter registration purposes does not include information for any non-citizens who apply for a license at DMV.

      Hope that helps.

  • John Fairbanks

    Right on, Jim!

  • Jay Denault

    Question, is it illegal to bribe, threaten, coerce, or intimidate voters only for the election of public officers? If so am I to assume that in all other ballot measures it is legal to offer bribes, coerce, intimidate, and threaten voters? Example, is it legal for windmill manufactures to make a financial offer in exchange for a favorable vote on a ballot measure to install wind turbines?