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Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh Corrects Opinion After Vt. Secretary Of State Complaint

Secretary of State Jim Condos says concerns about increased voter fraud in the universal vote-by-mail system planned in Vermont this year are unfounded.
Darron Cummings
Associated Press File
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos says the U.S. Supreme Court used incorrect information about Vermont elections in its decision to not allow Wisconsin to count ballots received after Election Day.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, a cyber attack at UVM Health Network and more for Thursday, Oct. 29.

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The latest coronavirus data:


1. Six people hospitalized for the coronavirus

The Vermont Department of Health reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday.

Windsor County saw five new cases, with four more in Chittenden County. Two or fewer cases were also reported in Addison, Orange, Rutland, Washington and Windham counties.

Another 1,052 people tested negative for the coronavirus.

Six people are hospitalized for the disease, and two of those are in the ICU, according to the Health Department.

Second prison staffer tests positive

A second staff member at a St. Johnsbury prison has tested positive for COVID-19.

WCAX reports a second infected person at Northeast Correctional Complex was last in the facility Tuesday.

Staff in close contact are now in quarantine. The prison remains on full lockdown until results come back from another round of mass testing next week.

The first positive case at the prison was over two weeks ago.

- Matthew Smith

2. Kavanaugh corrects opinion following complaint from Vermont SOS

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has made a correction to his concurring opinion in a case involving mail-in ballots, at the urging of Vermont's Secretary of State.

The ruling, issued Monday, prevents the state of Wisconsin from counting ballots that arrive after Election Day.

In his opinion, Kavanaugh cited Vermont as a state that had not changed its election rules in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos released a letter he wrote to the clerk of the court in which he said the state had, in fact, changed its rules this year.

Unlike past years, Vermont sent general election ballots to all registered voters. The state also allowed town clerks to begin processing completed ballots 30 days before the election.

After the correction was made, Condos issued a statement saying that Kavanaugh "used factually incorrect information about the Green Mountain State as cover to erode voting rights in the middle of a pandemic-distressed election."

- Steve Zind

SOS expects 1% of ballots to be spoiled

About 1% of mail-in ballots in this year's election could have an error that keeps them from being counted. WCAX reports the August primary saw a higher, roughly 3% defective rate.

But Secretary of State Jim Condos says the general election ballots are simpler, and he expects fewer ballots to have voter errors.

Condos urged all voters to make sure they sign their certificate envelope and then put their completed ballot inside. Voters are encouraged to bring their ballot to their town clerk's office, or with them to vote in-person on Election Day.

- Matthew Smith

3. UVM Health Network suffers cyber attack

The UVM Health Network has been hit by a cyber attack that seems related to other attacks that took place across the country this week.

Rick Yeiser was at UVM Medical Center for an appointment on Wednesday, when the computer system went down .

“Most people knew not only was it system-wide, but they said it was similar to something that was happening at a hospital in northern New York, and that they were aware that it was part of a bigger hack,’ he said.

UVM says it’s working to restore the system, though it warns it will take some time to return to normal operations.

The FBI and Homeland Security are working with state law enforcement officials to investigate the attack.

Read the full story.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

4. Brattleboro tries out work pilot program

A Brattleboro nonprofit is wrapping up a three month pilot program called Work Today. It gives people experiencing homelessness a chance to make some money.

One of the participants, Alan Stay, has been painting town buildings and doing trail work for the program.

“It’s kind of hard when a lot of us have a bad background to get some employment, you know,” Stay said. “People aren’t so apt to give someone a second chance all the time. So for a lot of us, this is a way to get some income, you know, and be able to do some positive things with our lives.”

The program was an effort to cut down on an increase in panhandling around Brattleboro.

Read/hear the full story.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

5. Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Zuckerman outlines budget proposal

Democratic candidate for governor David Zuckerman has begun to outline what his first budget proposal would look like, if he defeats Gov. Phil Scott next week.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a reduction in state revenues. But Zuckerman says his budget would include direct financial assistance to low-income families, and new investments in weatherization and housing.

“Now is a time not to cut back, but to make sure people have the critical services they need and that we invest in jumpstarting the economy,” he said.

Zuckerman says he’d draw down rainy day funds, and impose a tax increase on higher-income Vermonters to pay for the programs.

- Peter Hirschfeld

6. Vermont restaurants ask for continued funding for food assistance program

Vermont restaurants are asking elected officials to extend a nutrition-assistance program that’s provided needed revenues during the coronavirus pandemic.

The program, called Everyone Eats, pays restaurants to provide meals to needy Vermonters. Among them is Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen in Barre, owned by Rich McSheffrey.

“It’s a lifeline,” McSheffrey said. “It helps out, it helps keep people employed, and most importantly, it gets the meals into the hands of the people that need them.”

The program was funded with $5 million in coronavirus relief money, but that funding is set to expire at the end of December.

- Peter Hirschfeld

7. Sale of former Southern Vermont College stalls

An agreement to buy the campus of the former Southern Vermont College has stalled.

A court-appointed trustee representing the college in bankruptcy proceedings says a roughly $3 million agreement with a summer camp operator to buy the campus was never completed.

Court filings show a New York City-area youth camp organization made the offer in June, alongside agreements to use the campus this summer.

But both agreements expired in September and haven't been renewed. The trustee for the former college says negotiations for the sale are ongoing.

- Associated Press

8. Upper Valley seeing unintended effects of interstate COVID restrictions

Two Upper Valley lawmakers want the state to ease COVID-related restrictions on some cross-border travel between Vermont and New Hampshire.

TheValley News reportsthat Thetford Rep. Jim Masland appealed to state officials on behalf of students in the Dresden School District, which includes towns on both sides of the Connecticut River.

Masland pointed out that the students can be together for classes, but because of current restrictions on nonessential travel between the two states, the Vermont students can’t participate in school sports like skiing and soccer.

The paper says Tim Briglin, another Thetford representative, has also expressed concerns, and quotes Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak saying that while Vermonters can continue to go to work and grocery stores in New Hampshire, there are some unintended consequences from the restrictions, and that outdoor sports don’t represent a risky activity.

Pieciak says the state hopes to address the issue soon.

- Steve Zind

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