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Vermont voters now have a 'cure' for defective primary ballots

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos in a dark blazer and red tie.
Matthew Smith
/
VPR File
During an elections briefing with reporters on Tuesday, Secretary of State Jim Condos said more than 26,000 Vermonters have already cast early primary ballots.

For the first time in Vermont’s history, early voters who cast a defective ballot will have an opportunity to correct the mistake.

During the last primary election in Vermont, more than 6,000 ballots were discarded by town clerks because people voted incorrectly.

The record number of “spoiled” ballots prompted lawmakers to take up the issue in 2021. And Secretary of State Jim Condos said Tuesday that a state law passed last year now provides voters a second chance to get it right.

“Now, voters can correct those errors, either with the town clerk or at the polls on Election Day, so that their ballot can be counted,” Condos said during a primary briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

Have questions about primary candidates? Vermont Public has answers. Check out our 2022 Primary Elections Voter's Guide

Condos said common mistakes for early primary voters include not signing the return envelope or not returning ballots for party primaries in which they didn’t vote.

Some Vermonters are already regaining their electoral voices as a result of the change. Condos said 260 Vermonters have taken steps to “cure” defective ballots so far this primary season.

“That is 260 votes in the past elections (that) would not have been counted because of an error in how they returned it,” he said. “Now it works.”

Condos said town clerks have a “good faith duty” to alert voters who’ve submitted defective ballots. But he said people can also confirm their ballot was submitted successfully by visiting the My Voter Page section at the secretary of state’s website.

Condos had other advice for voters on Tuesday: If you’re one of the 52,000-odd Vermonters who’ve requested early primary ballots by mail this year, you can no longer rely on the U.S. Postal Service to get them to your town clerk on time.

The seven-to-10-day window to get ballots in mail before the election has closed, he said.

People who haven’t yet mailed early ballots should instead deliver them to one of about 200 secure drop boxes around the state, or drop them off in person at their local town clerk’s office during business hours.

If people are unable to make it the town clerk before Election Day, Condos said “you can still bring it to the polls” on Election Day. He said all polling stations in Vermont will be open on Aug. 9.

Condos said he can’t predict what voter turnout will be for next Tuesday’s primary election, but he said he expects the unusually busy mid-term primary will draw lots of interest from voters.

“There have not been this many open statewide and federal seats at any time in recent history, and certainly not in my tenure as secretary of state,” he said.

Vermont has contested primary races for open seats for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, attorney general, secretary of state and lieutenant governor.

More than 52,000 voters have requested early ballots so far this year. And 25,970 have returned their ballots to town clerks.

Condos said that figure is two and a half times greater than the number of early votes cast in the last midterm primary, in 2018.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Peter Hirschfeld:

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The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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