On Friday, Governor Phil Scott allowed S.348 to become law without his signature. This law grants full authority to the Secretary of State to mail all registered voters a ballot for this year’s General Election in November. This law finally makes it possible for Vermont to move forward with a vote-by-mail system, which is the safest way for citizens to cast their ballot during the pandemic.
Earlier legislation passed in March granted joint authority to the Governor and Secretary of State, however, Gov. Scott made clear that he preferred not to be part of the process. Further, Gov. Scott was unwilling to approve a plan to move forward with vote-by-mail until after the August primary. Secretary of State Condos made clear that waiting until August to make the decision was untenable and would therefore fail to offer the greatest protections for voters and poll workers. Legislators ultimately passed S.348 by overwhelming margins in both the Senate and House.
Vermont now becomes one of the very few states to move forward with a universal vote-by-mail system in the midst of the pandemic. Five states already have years of experience conducting their elections primarily by mail. Vermont will also preserve in-person voting options for those who need or prefer this method of voting. But citizens are encouraged to vote safely from home this year if they possibly can.
“As our nation continues to be ravaged by the coronavirus and by the failure of leadership at the federal level, Vermonters can take some comfort from the fact that state legislators and our Secretary of State are determined to make the 2020 election safe and secure. Casting your ballot from home is absolutely the safest way to vote this year. This new law will pave the way for tens of thousands more Vermonters to vote-by-mail than ever have before,” said VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns, “The only sour note is that Gov. Scott failed to sign the legislation. This was an opportunity to demonstrate leadership. He took a pass by allowing the bill to become law without his signature. Instead of standing up for safety and science, he tacitly threw a bone to the extremist fringe who oppose taking reasonable steps to limit the public health threat.”