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Time To Vote 2016: Here Are The Candidates For Vermont Secretary Of State

Photo Illustration by Emily Alfin Johnson

Vermont’s secretary of state deals with issues of professional licensing, corporate regulations and open records laws. Perhaps this office is best known for running Vermont’s elections.

Election Results | Election Day Live Blog

What does the secretary of state do?

The secretary of statefocuses on regulating dozens of businesses, policies and professions. He or she oversees the state archives, the licensing of health and safety professionals and the registration of businesses; helps towns and the state government remain in compliance with Vermont's open records laws; and, perhaps most notably, serves as the chief election officer for the state.

Acupuncturists, veterinarians, real estate agents, architects and many others all have to be certified and registered with the state, and live up to certain expectations. If they do not, and consumers have a problem, the secretary of state's office is the one to help.

The secretary of state also monitors the election process and campaign finance, working with communities around the state to make sure voting in Vermont is fair and efficient.

Who’s running for secretary of state?

There are two candidates for secretary of state on Vermont’s ballot in this year’s general election:

Where are they on the issues?

Both spoke with VPR about the issues and why they’re running, including:

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  • Democrat and Republican candidate
  • Town of residence: Montpelier
  • Incumbent running for his forth term in office
  • Candidate website

On why he's running: “I think when I first started this job, when I first ran in 2010, I said I was going to move to transform the office. State government doesn't have a very good reputation overall for technology, transparency and openness, and I said that I was going to work to do that. And I think I've been accomplishing those different aspects in a good way, and we have transformed the office. We're making things more efficient, and now I'm looking to work with the administration to try to transform the rest of state government as well.

“We have tremendous amounts of information that are available to the public and we have more information today that's available on our website than there was a year ago or two years ago or six years ago. And I think what we've been doing is always looking at ... how we present that information and try to make it easily accessible, easy to find, and make it so that people have access to that information. We believe that that good government ... provides good access to its public, and frankly the Constitution demands it.”

On the role of secretary of state: When it comes to the functions of the office, Condos says “they're all important."

“I actually have four specific areas that I that I control: the Office of Professional Regulation, where we have 50 professions and approaching 70,000 licensees. We protect the public's health and safety through professional regulation, and we lead the way by providing an efficient and effective licensing and enforcement system.

“I have the State Archives and Records Management Unit where, frankly, our most precious and treasured documents are kept — things like the Vermont Constitution. And we also deal with all state agencies on public records and management of those public records. Then, of course, we have Corporations, which is where business comes to register its business, to file liens and it's how we keep track of things in the state of Vermont for business. And we've transformed that as well.

“And of course, the last area that's important, probably the thing that I spend the most time on, is elections, where we're protecting the integrity and the accuracy of our election system while increasing voter participation and creating a more effective election administration.”

On elections: "I frankly I think we should make [Election Day] a national holiday. I think the general election in November should be a national holiday [so] that everybody can have the opportunity to go there to cast their constitutional, constitutionally-defended ballot.”

Condos would also like to standardize certain aspects of the process — such as early voting — across the country.

“We're such a mobile society now. And if someone moves here from even as close as New Hampshire, we have different election laws than New Hampshire does. And I think that we need to try to standardize some of the national election processes to make them more consistent across the border. You know, we have essentially 50 different voter registration systems ... So that that's an area that I think offers great promise."

"We've just completed the installation of a complete new election management system. We hope to be saving money on it ... but it also makes us more efficient and makes our town clerks more efficient."

His 'elevator pitch' to voters: “I’ve transformed the office — we've brought the office into the 2000s and we're now providing information to people that they didn't have access to before. I think also that the whole idea of transparency: We have a web site that is considered to be one of the best in state government.

"We also are looking for [efficiency] ... For instance, when I took office, zero percent of our activities were being completed online. Today, 98 percent are being completed online. So we keep looking for that."

Want to hear more from Condos?

Listen to Secretary of State Jim Condos' full interview with VPR's Mitch Wertlieb.

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No photo available.

  • Liberty Union candidate
  • Town of residence: Putney
  • Retired elementary school teacher. In the past, Herbert ran for governor and lieutenant governor. In 2012, she ran for secretary of state and received 13 percent of the vote.
  • Party website

On why she’s running: “I am a retired elementary school teacher and I have that experience of working with the public and I, over the years, have come to learn about the secretary of state's office and what it entails.”

On the role of secretary of state: “Well, it's hard. There's so many — because it really is the secretary of state. It's the overseer for so many things, for professional licenses, for example … for corporate and construction projects of all sorts around the state. And it also keeps track of voting records … and also voting registration is all done through the secretary of state's office.

“The fact that it has to approve so many different kinds of licenses and building permits and that sort of thing. It shapes the way our state looks and shapes, I think, the attitudes.

“I have found that being a candidate for secretary of state is a good fit for me, and it's because I have many fellow retired teacher friends around the state who I think vote for me — or some of them do, anyway. I also found that being the candidate for secretary of state is a good way for me to usually gain the 7 percent of the vote that minor parties need to be on the ballot the following year to be considered major parties. So that's been important.

“I think we add something to the discussion each year. I think we have one of the most beautiful political platforms I've ever read … It begins by saying that all the world's resources should be used to benefit the people of the world and that we should have free health care for everyone."

On elections: “I think maybe easier access for parties like Liberty Union … I think there are ways that we in the past have kind of pulled the whole political apparatus a little to the left.”

Her 'elevator pitch' to voters: “It wouldn't be hard to say, ‘Vote for me for secretary of state,’ because these ideas are what I'm what I'm running on: As a former kindergarten teacher, I'm very aware of the need for after-school programs for Vermont youngsters.

"And I got a letter recently addressed to ‘Dear Candidate,’ and it was from … a group that wants to set up after-school programs for every child in Vermont and get every child into them, because although Vermont does have some very good programs, most of Vermont's children aren't getting there. Those who are live in poverty or have no transportation are left out. And that we had a good record nationally about the quality of our programs but not about the attendance ... So I would would like to urge much more emphasis on getting school kids into after-school programs.”

Want to hear more from Herbert?

Listen to Mary Alice "Mal" Herbert's full interview with VPR's Mitch Wertlieb.

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Time To Vote: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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