No one should have to choose between staying safe and exercising their right to vote.
But we’re heading toward an election in the middle of a pandemic. Early voting for Vermont’s August primary begins in late June. And there is no way of knowing what the COVID-19 threat will be for the rest of 2020.
It’s critical that we act now to protect the safety of voters and poll workers, and the security of the election itself.
VPIRG is therefore calling on Secretary of State Jim Condos and Gov. Phil Scott to commit to the following 3 steps:
1. Mail every voter a ballot
Thousands of voters in Vermont have been casting their absentee ballots from home for years without difficulty. So, the idea of voting from home is not new here. But now, in order to keep voters safe, we need to maximize the process. Every eligible voter in Vermont should automatically receive a ballot before upcoming elections so they can vote-by-mail.
2. Make safe, in-person voting available
While we should do all that we can to encourage Vermonters to vote-by-mail, it’s important that options remain available for safe, in-person voting as well. This is particularly important for people with disabilities, younger voters, people of color, those who may have unstable housing, and new Americans.
3. Expand voter education and outreach
Our goal should be to maximize successful voter participation while making all voters and election workers feel safe. Since voting by mail will be a new experience for at least 70 percent of Vermont voters, it’s critically important for state officials to work collaboratively on public education and outreach efforts with partners on the ground in communities around the state.
Despite what you may have heard from the president, claims of fraud associated with voting by mail are rare.1
Five states have already successfully adopted vote-by-mail systems that have proven effective. In fact, states with some of the highest voter participation, especially in typically low-turnout primary contests, tend to be vote-by-mail states.2
In addition, there is plenty of analysis shows that no political party is exclusively benefited by vote-by-mail.3 This despite the fact that President Trump admitted on Fox News his fear that “if you ever agreed to it [mail-in voting] you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” 4 It’s just not true.
But it is clear who would benefit from a vote-by-mail system in this pandemic: Vermont voters and poll workers.