VT House Approves ‘Vote by Mail’ Legislation

119-30 vote indicates the bill will become law this year 

The Vermont House gave its strong support today to legislation that will require ballots to be mailed to all Vermont voters in general elections moving forward. This policy was put in place as a one-time emergency measure in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic.  

The vote was 119-30 in the House on the second reading of the bill (S.15). It will come up for final approval in the House tomorrow. In addition to making universally-mailed ballots permanent for all future general elections, the bill will allow voters to fix or “cure” a ballot if it has been deemed defective by a Clerk after being sent in. A common defect is when a voter fails to sign the inner security envelope when returning a ballot.   

A poll conducted in February by the independent firm Lincoln Park Strategies found that 68 percent of Vermont voters want to keep vote by mail, while just 29 percent oppose it. Seventy-eight percent of Vermonters also supported the addition of the curing provision, which was not available to voters during the 2020 election.   

Prior to the vote, members of the House received a letter urging passage of the bill sent jointly by 19 different organizations and businesses in the state. According to the letter: 

“There can be no doubt that the policy was a huge success in 2020. Not only did it help to keep voters and election workers safe, but it contributed to the greatest election turnout of all time in Vermont, shattering the previous record by nearly 45,000 votes. Participation was up in all areas of the state as three out of every four votes were cast early, mostly by mail. Furthermore, voting from home was found to be convenient, secure, and overwhelmingly popular.”

S.15 Joint Letter of Support, House

The state’s leading pro-democracy organizations strongly support the legislation as an important way to encourage participation while leaving options for in-person voting for all who may need or prefer that method of casting their ballot. The bill also contains a provision directing the Secretary of State to consult with municipalities and interested stakeholders on the best practices for increasing access to voting for non-English-speaking Vermonters.

There have been more than 350 bills filed in 47 states aimed at making it harder to vote this year. Some have already been passed into law and make no mistake, they are a threat to our democracy. Fortunately, with the passage of this legislation, Vermont is moving in a very different direction. This law will bring Vermont one big step closer to being the most voter-friendly state in the nation.

The legislation must win final approval in the House and then go back to the Senate before being sent to the governor for his signature. But it is expected that this will happen within days so that it takes effect for the 2022 general election.