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Vermont

Vermont has made enormous strides with a wide variety of reforms in the last several years. By passing legislation to expand the use of drop boxes, conduct risk-limiting audits statewide, and transitioning to gold-standard ballot tracking, Vermont can build upon its outstanding work. As always, we stress that policy is important, but it is just as important that it is implemented well.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the municipality (or county, depending on how it’s created) can vote. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
Current law in Vermont only allows drop boxes on municipal property. We suggest allowing municipalities to place them in other locations to increase voter access and local autonomy, since 24/7 video surveillance of drop boxes is already mandated for unmanned drop boxes.
As use of absentee ballots increases, it is important to make sure that the ballots received are being filled out by the individuals they were sent to. Signature verification procedures ensure the security of the election process while also streamlining ballot processing.
Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner. Current law allows for ballots to be requested up to 3 days before the election, and that is most likely too short of a timespan for a ballot to be mailed to a voter and returned by mail by close of polls. Accepting Election Day postmarks is estimated to decrease ballot rejection rates by half in most jurisdictions. We recommend that Vermont not only allow the physical postmark on a ballot, but also to integrate into the USPS system for electronic postmarks to serve as verification that a ballot was mailed on time.
Vermont can increase voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package by improving its current ballot tracking system. Advanced ballot tracking systems can proactively notify voters when their ballot takes a new step in the path from being sent to them to finally being counted (or rejected). If a ballot is rejected, these ballot tracking tools can be used as another method to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope.
With a drastic increase in mail ballots, Vermont has an opportunity to reach for the gold standard of post-election security by implementing risk limiting audits.
Extending the period voters can cure any fixable issues with their ballots to 5 days after election day would reduce rejection rates.

Recent Legislation

As of June 16, 2021

In 2020, Vermont’s Secretary of State was granted the jurisdiction to enact temporary electoral reforms to adapt to the pandemic. The Secretary issued two orders in July, which authorized Vermont to conduct elections entirely by mail, guarantee prepaid postage, expand ballot return options with drop boxes and drive-up drop off, and give clerks 30 days of pre-processing time. These reforms represented immense progress, but only applied to the 2020 primary and general elections.

During its 2021 session, the State Legislature successfully made these measures permanent and even improved its systems further by adding a cure process. The Joint Fiscal Committee also voted unanimously to use some of Vermont’s remaining CARES Act funding to assist municipalities with paying for prepaid postage and other related costs.