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Secretary Of State Says Vermont's 2020 Voting Process Was 'Fairly Smooth'

Legs and feet poking out of a voter booth in a gym
Elodie Reed
A voter in the gym at Williamstown Middle and High School on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Secretary of State Jim Condos' office oversaw the 2020 election, which for the first time involved sending ballots to every active registered voter in the state.

The dust has settled on the 2020 election – in Vermont, that is. Every district has now reported its unofficial results in an election that saw over 358,000 people vote in the state, thousands of them before Election Day.

The state made significant changes to the way it conducted the election this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every registered voter was mailed a ballot ahead of the election and could mail it in or drop it off before Election Day. Elections are administered by the Secretary of State in Vermont, Jim Condos.

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with Jim Condos. Their conversation below has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Henry Epp: So this was an entirely different method of conducting an election than in past years. And now that we're on the other side of Election Day, how do you think it went?

Jim Condos: I think it went extremely well. It was fairly smooth. We obviously smashed our previous record for early and absentee voting, which was 95,000 in 2016. And this time, we had over 260,000 that actually submitted their absentee or early vote ballot.

More from VPR: 'Knee-Deep In Absentee Ballots': The Weeks Before Election Day With Williamstown's Town Clerk

We have not heard of any reports of significant issues at the polls or with mail-in ballots. But I want to check that with you. Were there any notable issues in any part of the election process?

Not that we're aware of. It just seems like there's always these questions now and then about, is this considered voter intimidation? You know, someone pulling up to a parking space with a banner on their car or something like that. And, you know, candidates do that as well.

So, you know, I would say, no, there really wasn't anything. We were monitoring it. We were working with law enforcement, both federal and state partners, to just make sure that everything was either available so that we could all know what was going on. So I would say that it was a pretty smooth election.

And, you know, I know the media hates to hear it, but no news is good news.

Did you have problems voting? Submit a tip here.

Right. Well, I mean, there were a lot of changes, as I said, to the election process this year. And this change to mailing every registered voter a ballot was temporary, spurred by the pandemic. Now that you've done it once in a general election, do you think it should be a permanent change to the way Vermont conducts elections?

So, Henry, that's actually a decision that the Legislature will make, we’ll present to them any details, and in a briefing, will provide items such as cost, what it cost us to do. A lot of people think that voting by mail is cheaper than having in-person voting, but it really isn't, because you're pre-paying the postage.

We do plan on meeting with a diverse group of clerks to kind of go over and debrief what happened, what occurred that was good, what was not, any suggestions or recommendations for moving forward. Those are the things that we'll take a look at.

"My elections team was working six and seven days a week for the last five, six months." — Secretary of State Jim Condos

OK, so you wouldn't necessarily make a recommendation to the Legislature in terms of deciding whether or not to continue this. But it does sound like generally this process went fairly well for your office.

It did go fairly well, and there was a lot of work that went into it. Literally, my elections team was working six and seven days a week for the last five, six months. There's a lot of things that are in play, and there's a lot of things that might happen if we went with the vote by mail on a permanent basis. So there's different aspects of it that have to be considered.

We're seeing a number of key battleground states around the country still counting votes today, and that could go on for potentially several more days. You were previously in the leadership of the Secretary of State's National Association. Do you have confidence in your colleagues in other states that they'll make sure all votes are counted fairly and in a fairly timely manner?

Absolutely. I think people need to remember that Congress has delegated the management of our elections process to the states. In each state, 50 of us have different rules and laws that we have to follow. It's completely different processes.

And I know that the states are working very diligently. I've been in touch with a couple of my colleagues in Michigan and Wisconsin, and know that they are really working as hard as they can to get an accurate count.

And I would just say, Henry, that it's really important that Americans have the patience to let the chief elections officials and other election officials have the time to make sure that the vote count is accurate. That's what we're all striving for.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Henry Epp @TheHenryEpp.

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Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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