President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested the 2020 election should be postponed, prompting swift condemnation from Vermont leaders. Vermont officials said the president does not have the authority to change the date of the election, which is set by the Constitution. They also challenged Trump’s assertions that expanded mail-in voting during the pandemic would lead to increased voter fraud — a claim he has repeated in recent months and is not backed by evidence. “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Trump wrote in a statement on Twitter. The president’s suggestion of delaying the election was rejected by political leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Vermont’s congressional delegation, Secretary of State Jim Condos and Gov. Phil Scott.
Articles about voting issues in Vermont.
The state of Vermont is going to send ballots to all active registered voters as a way to encourage voting in the November election while keeping people safe from the coronavirus pandemic, Vermont’s top election official said Monday. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos on Monday issued the formal rules the state will follow when voting in the 2020 General Election. Condos said voting by mail is simple, safe, and secure. “When it comes to something as important as our elections, we must always plan for the worst,” Condos said. “Our state and national health experts have been very clear: There is no way to predict the status of the virus in November or in the weeks and months between now and election day.” The 2020 Statewide Elections Directive is a result of laws passed by the Legislature this year that allows mail-in voting during the November election as a way to encourage voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the directive, mail-in ballots will be sent to every active registered voter ahead of the election. Active registered voters are those who have not been issued a challenge by their local election board. Voters can return the ballot by mail, bring it to their town or city clerks, or cast that ballot at the polls on Election Day.
While registered voters in Vermont likely will be mailed ballots for the General Election in November, the practice remains the subject of debate. Secretary of State Jim Condos stated in an email Monday that his office is working with town clerks on a directive that will be issued shortly — one that will create the process for mailing a ballot to every active registered voter for the General Election in November. Voters still can show up in person at the polls or use the existing absentee voting system. “The only major change we are planning for regarding the 2020 November General Election is the pro-active mailing of ballots to every active registered voter,” Condos stated. “Challenged voters will not be mailed a ballot, and would need to affirm their eligibility to register to vote with their Town Clerk, and request their ballot, vote early at the Clerk’s office, or vote at the polls on Election Day.” Changes to the voting process are being considered in states across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Vermont, Democrats and Republicans have been debating the issue in heated exchanges.
Vermont: House gives Secretary of State Condos full authority to expand mail-in voting | Kit Norton/VTDigger
The Vermont House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to give Secretary of State Jim Condos the unilateral authority to expand mail-in voting for the November general election because of the coronavirus epidemic. The move came after Condos and Gov. Phil Scott struggled to reach agreement. The lower chamber voted 106-31 by virtual voice vote in favor of S.348, which removes the need for the secretary of state and the governor to concur on emergency election protocol in 2020. “We are in the middle of a public health pandemic, and we should be doing everything in our power to keep people safe and that their vote be counted,” said House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington. “It’s critical we move this bill forward again so we can ensure that we have safe and secure elections in Vermont,” Krowinski added.
Vermont: Senate approves bill to remove Governor from vote-by-mail decision | Xander Landen/VTDigger
The Vermont Senate on Tuesday advanced legislation that would give Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos the unilateral authority to expand mail-in voting during the Covid-19 pandemic, after he and Gov. Phil Scott have struggled to reach an agreement on the policy. The legislation, which advanced in a vote of 21-7, removes a requirement for the governor to sign off on emergency elections changes during the pandemic. The bill is expected to pass on a second vote Wednesday and then heads to the House where Democratic leaders have signaled support. The vote fell mostly along party lines. Democrats argued that establishing a universal vote-by-mail system is important to protect the health of voters and poll workers in November. Republicans said the expansion is unnecessary and opens up avenues for voter fraud. The vote came after a disagreement between Condos and Scott that has taken on partisan overtones.
Vermont: Governor pushes back on mail-in ballot disagreement | Kit Norton and Grace Elletson/VTDigger
Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday he is not opposed to moving toward a mail-in voting system for the general election, but he would prefer not to make a decision now that will change how people vote in November. Scott’s remarks came a day after VTDigger reported on his reluctance to immediately support expanding the state’s mail-in voting system. “I had preferred not to do this through the media, but it appears that is no longer viable,” the governor said. The Republican governor said he has asked Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, if the state could set up the infrastructure for expanding mail-in voting, but not decide what to do until after the Aug. 11 primary election. Condos has said that his proposal does not force any voter to cast a ballot by mail, but authorizes the Secretary of State’s office to send ballots to all active voters in Vermont, at which point the individual can decide if they would rather go to the polls or vote-by-mail.
Vermont: Ethical Hackers Breach Vermont Voting Machines, But Officials Say No Need To Panic | Peter Hirschfeld/Vermont Public Radio
Elections security experts have discovered new ways to manipulate the type of voting machine used in Vermont, but local elections officials say it’s unlikely that bad actors could exploit those vulnerabilities to change the results of an election. At a recent technology conference in Las Vegas, ethical hackers from across the country tried to infiltrate some of the voting machines used in U.S. elections. Probing for vulnerabilities in ballot tabulators is an annual tradition at the DEF CON Hacking Conference. This year, however, hackers tried to gain access to the same type of voting machine used by 135 towns in Vermont. Montpelier City Clerk John Odum retrieved one of the machines from a vault last week and placed it on a desk in his office. It’s a pretty ancient-looking piece of technology — like something you might have seen in a middle school computer room in the early 1990s. “As I understand it, the memory cards that we use, the technology was originally developed for the original Tandy laptops,” Odum said, “so this is some old stuff.” The machine is called an AccuVote, and its name is clearly meant to inspire confidence in the results it spits out. But when white-hat hackers set to work on this tabulator at DEF CON earlier this month, they quickly found all kinds of ways to manipulate results.
The upcoming legislative session will see a push among some lawmakers to change the way Vermonters cast their ballots during elections. Legislators in the House and Senate plan on introducing bills that would institute a ranked-choice voting system in Vermont. Champions of ranked-choice voting argue the system leads to a more accurate reflection of public opinion in election results, by requiring winners to receive the majority of voter support or face a “run off”. Sibilia plans on spearheading an effort in the House to pass a ranked-choice bill into law. Sen. Chris Pearson, D/P Chittenden, will also be introducing a a ranked-choice bill in the Senate.
The Vermont Secretary of State told On Point that in late August hackers used three different methods to attempt to access Vermont’s online voter registration database. One of the attempts came from Russia. “We experienced scans,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said. “Our logs of the system showed where they were coming from. The one that raised our attention, if you want to call it, was the one that said ‘Russian Federation,’ and we forwarded that on to Department of Homeland Security.” None of the attacks were successful. The attempts were first reported by NBC News. Condos revealed the Russian attempt to On Point. The Department of Homeland Security said in an intelligence assessment obtained by NBC News that it’s aware of growing “cyberactivity targeting election infrastructure in 2018. … Numerous actors are regularly targeting election infrastructure, likely for different purposes, including to cause disruptive effects, steal sensitive data and undermine confidence in the election.”
Primary day in Vermont is Aug. 14, with a host of races on the ballot — including Democrats making their pick for their gubernatorial candidate in November, and the incumbent Republican governor facing a challenge from within his own party. Behind the scenes, election officials say they are increasingly focused on securing the vote from hackers. Even in tiny Montpelier, so far from Washington, election meddling is on the mind of some voters, after near-daily headlines of Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 elections. “Hopefully they have better things to do,” voter Bill Provost said of election hackers from Russia or elsewhere.
When Sharon Draper first became clerk of the lakeside town of Elmore, there were about 250 registered voters. That has grown over the years to approximately 700. But for many elections, the number of voters is still not robust enough to justify the expense of using a tabulator, so the paper ballots are counted by hand. As to fraud concerns, Draper says she doesn’t worry. She knows most of the people in town. “There just are not any security issues, I feel, in a little town like Elmore,” Draper said. Since revelations that 21 states’ systems were targeted by Russian hackers in the 2016 election, security of the democratic process has been a major concern across the country. Election security has been the subject of congressional reports and hearings. Lawmakers approved an expenditure of $380 million earlier this year to help jurisdictions buttress their systems.
Whether by design or accident, Vermont’s founders imposed no age requirement on those who could run for governor of this state. Town officials in Vermont must be legal voters, meaning they have taken the voter’s oath and are at least 18 years old. No such requirement exists for Vermont’s highest office. The constitutional quirk paved the way for Ethan Sonneborn, 13, of Bristol, to announce this summer that he’s running for governor. Eligible candidates must have simply lived in Vermont for four years before the election — “which I’ve tripled, and then some,” said Sonneborn, a 13-year resident of Vermont. The youngest governor to lead Vermont was F. Ray Keyser, Jr., who was 34 years old when he took office in 1961, according to the state Archives and Records Administration. Sonneborn, who is starting eighth grade this fall at Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School, hopes to beat that record by a good 20 years.
Secretary of State Jim Condos has stepped up his rebuff of the Trump administration, saying he won’t comply — for now — with the demand that secretaries of state nationwide provide voter information to a federal commission investigating claims of election fraud. The Election Integrity Commission on Wednesday asked for voters’ dates of birth, voter histories, party affiliations, felony convictions, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal information, according to Condos’ office. Condos said last week that he is “bound by law” to provide limited information that is publicly available. But Monday, citing new information and a public outcry over the weekend, Condos issued a statement saying he wouldn’t send any information until receiving certain assurances from the Trump administration.
Vermont: State And Local Officials On High Alert For Breaches In Vermont’s Election System | Vermont Public Radio
Secretary of State Jim Condos says his office is actively taking steps to protect the state’s election system from being manipulated by foreign or domestic computer hackers, but says there’s no evidence so far to indicate that Vermont’s voting system was breached. Following reports of Russian efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Homeland Security has reached out to individual states to help strengthen the security of their voting systems. Condos says this issue has become an ongoing and critically important concern for his office.
The Vermont Municipal Clerks’ and Treasurers’ Association is raising concerns that already hardworking election officials would be overloaded by a pending House bill intended to address controversy over legislative-race recounts last fall. “The last couple years there’s been so much coming at us that something’s going to break,” said Karen Richard, the town clerk for Colchester, Vt., who also heads the association’s legislative committee. Richard cited several mandates that have come down from the Legislature in the past few years, including requirements that clerks report unofficial results to the Secretary of State’s Office on Election Day and deal with same-day registrants, online registration, automatic DMV registration and unlimited early absentee voting.
A Vermont federal court has confirmed a prior ruling, in Corren versus Donovan and Condos, that Vermont’s public financing statute is constitutional. In its decision(link is external) on Thursday, the Court also ruled that Plaintiffs are not entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees for the action. The case refers to the 2014 Progressive/Democrat candidate for lieutenant governor Dean Corren versus Attorney General TJ Donovan and Secretary of State Jim Condos. The federal lawsuit was filed in 2015 in an attempt block the state from pursuing a campaign finance law enforcement action in state court. Plaintiffs also asked the Court to declare Vermont’s system for the public financing of election campaigns unconstitutional.
The small Vermont community most famous as the birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge abruptly canceled its Australian ballot vote on Tuesday’s Town Meeting Day, and is now readying for a do-over. “This was an honest mistake,” said Russ Tonkin of the Plymouth Select Board. “And we will make it right.” Tonkin said about 90 of Plymouth’s nearly 500 registered voters had cast their ballots in the local election when the select board shut down the process midday, voiding those votes. “We didn’t want to waste anybody else’s time,” Tonkin added.
More than three months after the last vote was cast, Vermont’s election season appears to be finally over. Republican Robert Frenier’s state House seat is safe after a second recount effort, this time in the Vermont House, came to a sudden halt Wednesday morning. The recount of a race between five-term incumbent progressive Susan Hatch Davis and Frenier was stopped on a technicality moments after it began. About two dozen lawmakers met to begin the recount Wednesday morning at the Vermont Statehouse. Recount leaders then announced that a bag containing ballots from Chelsea, Vermont, had a different identification number than was expected, which under House rules amounts to a “tampering” violation and ends the process.
A second recount for a state House seat has some Republicans and town clerks crying foul, but Democrats say the incumbent who lost has a right to ask the Legislature to resolve the contested election. Susan Hatch Davis, a Progressive from Washington, went to court after the November vote showed Republican Robert Frenier of Chelsea beat her by eight votes, and a recount showed he won by seven. The court refused to authorize a second recount, so Davis asked the Legislature to intervene. Now the House Republican leader is accusing Democrats of trying to steal a seat to prevent the GOP from sustaining a governor’s veto.
A second Vermont recount for a state House seat has some Republicans and town clerks crying foul, but Democrats say the incumbent who lost has a right to ask the Legislature to resolve the contested election. Susan Hatch Davis, a Progressive from Washington, went to court after the November vote showed Republican Robert Frenier of Chelsea beat her by eight votes, and a recount showed he won by seven. The court refused to authorize a second recount, so Davis asked the Legislature to intervene. Now the House Republican leader is accusing Democrats of trying to steal a seat to prevent the GOP from sustaining a governor’s veto.