Our democracy flourishes when as many people as possible can participate. That is why Vermont has taken steps to make voting safer and more equitable — such as implementing same-day voter registration, early voting, and the use of effective systems for tracking ballots — but there is more we can do.
The Vermont legislature should start by making universally mailed ballots a permanent feature of Vermont's elections going forward.
HERE IS HOW...
- Automatically mail ballots to every active registered voter. Ballots should be automatically mailed to voters before each election and voters should not have to apply for a ballot ahead of time.
- Allow multiple return options for mail-in ballots, including drop boxes, polling places, and election offices, and cover the cost of postage for ballot return envelopes. Prepaid postage would prevent Vermonters from having to pay to exercise their right to vote. Providing multiple return options gives voters the flexibility needed to ensure equal access to the ballot box regardless of race, income, geographic location, or physical condition.
- Ensure voters are able to vote early and in person. If they do not wish to vote by mail, allowing in-person voting prior to election day enables voters with scheduling conflicts to participate in elections.
- Implement comprehensive automatic voter registration. Automatically registering voters and updating the addresses of already registered voters during interactions with state government agencies increases voter participation and keeps voter rolls up to date.
- Maintain an effective system for tracking ballots. Each ballot should have a unique identifier so that voters can know when their ballots have been received. Such an identifier would also prevent anyone from voting more than once.
- Process ballots well in advance of elections and subject them to post-election risk-limiting audits. Storing, processing, and counting mailed ballots in a secure and centralized facility that is monitored by the public would reassure those who are worried about election fraud. Risk-limiting audits have been an effective method of confirming the accuracy of election results.
- Count ballots postmarked by election day, even if they are received after election day. Counting these ballots will ensure that voters who mail their ballots prior to election day are not penalized for mail delays.
- Ensure that voters with disabilities have accessible options for receiving and returning ballots. Options such as electronic ballot delivery, with the possibility of joining a permanent electronic ballot list, should be accessible to voters with disabilities. In addition, allowing voters to return ballots through people they trust increases access for elderly voters, sick voters, and voters with disabilities.
- Create an accessible and consistent statewide process that allows voters to cure ballot errors. Innocent mistakes like forgetting to sign an envelope should not deprive any Vermonter of their vote and voters should have the opportunity to correct these small mistakes.
- Not reject ballot for simply missing an inner envelope. Requiring ballots to be sealed in an additional inner envelope increases the odds that ballots will be rejected for innocent mistakes that have no bearing on the votes’ validity.
Implementing these changes will help ensure that every eligible voter in Vermont, no matter their age, socioeconomic status, or physical condition, can safely exercise their right to participate in our democratic process.
Call your legislators at (802) 828-2228 today and ask them to make vote-by-mail permanent for all Vermont elections.