All Vermonters should be congratulated for adhering to the state and federal recommendations to stay home and stay safe during these stages of the COVID 19 pandemic. The results have been positive, a result noticed around the country.

We Vermonters are being held out as an example for how to do this right. As life begins to take on some semblance of normal, attention has begun to shift to how we can stay safe and move toward the future. Among the things many people are wondering about is the process they will use to vote this year. The Office of the Secretary of State and your legislature has been focused on this incredibly important topic too.

In late March, Vermont’s House of Representatives passed H. 681, an act that gave the Secretary of State, in consultation with our governor, temporary authority to change the way elections could be conducted during the COVID-19 emergency – the bill became Act 92 after the governor signed it.

The Secretary of State’s Office has been actively exploring voting options for the Aug. 11 primary and Nov. 3 general election. Regardless of the final plan, elections will include an expansion of Vermont’s existing early and absentee voting system. It has been proven to be a safe and secure process that allows any registered voter to cast a ballot by mail.

In the 2016 and 2018 general elections, about 30% of Vermonters voted this way. Either way, the polls will be open on election day in a safe, modified way for people who cannot be reached by mail or for those who need assistance to vote.

My children have always voted by absentee ballot because they were either away at school or needed at work during polling times. They followed the simple process outlined in Vermont’s current election law. This year, you can request your ballot online up to 45 days before the Primary or General Election. Here’s how:

Start at “My Voter Page,” mvp.vermont.gov. There are very clear instructions on how to proceed. You can request a ballot for both Aug. 11 and Nov. 3 if you want. If you’d rather not request a ballot on the Secretary of State’s My Voter page, you can always request a ballot by e-mailing or calling your town clerk as you have in the past.

Across the country, 26% of ballots were cast by mail in 2018, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. Five states — Hawaii, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Colorado — will conduct their upcoming 2020 elections entirely by mail.

Though it is sometimes raised as a concern, fraud rates remain very small, according to the Center. Since 2000, for example, Oregon has sent more than 100 million mail-in ballots and documented only a dozen cases of fraud. And because vote-by-mail is long-established in Vermont, the Secretary of State has security procedures up and running.

States are developing new and innovative ways for everyone to vote, ways that are easy, safe and protective of our voting privileges, just as we are doing in Vermont. The future of our mobility is highly unpredictable because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore very important that we prepare for safe ways to conduct our fall elections. Our democracy depends on it – we must have safe, secure and accessible elections no matter what else is happening in our country.

If you have any questions on these alternative voting processes, please feel free to reach out at jbrumsted@leg.state.vt.us.

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