Politics

Mail-in ballots to be sent out in last 2 weeks of September

Secretary of State Jim Condos. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election will be sent to Vermonters no later than Oct. 1, as Secretary of State Jim Condos and his office prepare for what could be a record turnout in a presidential year.

Condos said Thursday that ballots will be mailed to all active voters in the last 10 days of September, and that by Oct. 1 all forms should have been sent out. The secretary of state added that after a record number of people voted in the Aug. 11 primary — in which an enhanced absentee mail-in ballot system was used — it is expected that high voter participation will take place in the upcoming general election.

“Generally, the turnout is 300,000-325,000,” Condos said of general election voters in the past.

“We expect at least that much and probably more because we are planning to mail a ballot to every active registered voter,” he said.

Condos added that if Vermonters are planning to return their ballots via the post office, they should shoot to have them in the mail by Oct. 26. If individuals miss that target, they can return them in person to the town clerk or to city hall.

In last month’s primary, a record 174,242 out of the 490,018 registered voters cast ballots in the state. Condos said the effect of widespread mail-in voting is one of the main reasons for the uptick, citing that there were more than 150,000 requests for mail-in ballots for the 2020 primary — thousands more votes than the 122,000 total in the 2000 primary, the 120,000 in the 2016 contest and the 107,000 in 2018.

The secretary of state also said that — based on the number of people who voted by mail compared to those who went to the polls on Aug. 11 —  he thinks Vermont is well positioned to make sure all Vermonters can vote without fear of Covid-19. 

Condos said that about 70% of voters sent their ballot in via the mail while between 25-30% of people went to a polling place on primary day.

“We’re trying to drive down the number of in-person voting,” Condos said. “Now we did a pretty good job with the primary, but we’re expecting a much higher turnout for the general election.”

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The secretary of state added that, despite statements from the White House about the safety of mail-in voting and threats to undercut funding for the U.S. Postal Service, he does not foresee any issues in Vermont.

“We don’t suspect we’re going to see any problems with the Postal Service here in Vermont,” Condos said.

Mail-in ballot for the Sept. 11 primary election. Photo by Michael Dougherty/VTDigger

“We actually have relatively good delivery times here in Vermont,” he added, but emphasized it is important to have a cushion of 7-10 days before Nov. 3 to send in ballots.

However, nationally it may be another story.

In a survey of mail-in ballots sent during primaries from June 2 to Aug. 13, an internal Postal Service audit found that election boards across the country had sent more than one million ballots during the final week of primary elections, putting those votes at “high risk” of not making it back to officials in time to be counted, the New York Times has reported.

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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