Federal prosecutors in Vermont will be on the watch to take complaints, including those alleging fraud and voter intimidation, in the Nov. 3 general election.
The announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Vermont comes as President Donald Trump continues to allege, without providing evidence, that the increase in voting by mail expected this election will lead to more fraud.
Those comments have been sharply criticized by election officials, including Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, who says election fraud is “exceedingly” rare.
Asked Friday if she shares the concerns raised by Trump, U.S. Attorney for Vermont Christina Nolan replied, “I don’t get into national politics or politics at all because I’m not a politician at all. I’m a law enforcement officer.”
Pressed if her office is more focused on mail-in voting because of the president’s claims, Nolan responded, “We don’t discriminate about our concern; we’re concerned about all kinds of crimes.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont announced this week that Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Drescher and Barbara Matterson are leading the election initiative for the federal prosecutor’s office in the state.
The effort is part of a nationwide program to handle complaints and voting rights concerns for the election that’s just 11 days away.
Nolan said the same initiative has taken place during past elections.
“In the 2018 midterms, we put out the same release and we followed the same Election Day integrity program,” Nolan said. Her predecessor, Eric Miller, also asked prosecutors to watch for fraud and intimidation in the 2016 general election.
She wouldn’t comment on what type of complaints, if any, had come into the office during past elections, particularly the most recent midterm.
“There have been a couple of things that have come to our attention,” Nolan said, “but I can’t talk to you about anything that could be under investigation or that hasn’t come to the surface, obviously nothing that has resulted in charges.”
According to the U.S Attorney’s Office in Vermont, federal law addresses crimes such as bribery or intimidation carried out to obtain votes as well as the buying and selling of votes. In addition, federal law provides protection against harassment and upholds voter rights.
State officials expanded mail-in voting in Vermont after the pandemic hit, with the Secretary of State’s Office sending absentee ballots for the general election to 438,000 active registered voters.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, as of Friday, 184,101 voters had already returned ballots to town clerks, or 57% of the total vote from 2016.
Election officials are urging voters to mail ballots by Saturday to ensure they arrive in time to be counted.
Condos, Vermont’s secretary of state, has also talked about safeguards that are in place to prevent voter fraud as well as to detect it.
Early ballots and mailed ballots must be submitted in the certificate envelope and signed by the voter under the penalty of perjury.
Drescher and Masterson will be on duty for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont while the polls are open on Election Day. They can be reached at 802-651-8249.
FBI special agents will also be available in each field office on Election Day, and Nolan said her office is working closely with Vermont’s secretary of state and attorney general’s offices, Vermont State Police and other state and local officials.
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