We should be proud of our Vermont elections

By JIM CONDOS

Election Day is fast approaching.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Vermonters will head to the ballot box to vote for the people who will represent them, from justice of the peace all the way up to governor and members of Congress.

Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy in Vermont and across the country. As Vermont’s chief election official, I work hard to ensure that every eligible Vermont voter who wishes to cast a ballot can do so, with confidence in the security and integrity of their vote.

We can be proud of Vermont’s elections process. We have made tremendous strides in improving voter access and breaking down unnecessary barriers to register and vote for all eligible voters.

When we began work on our new elections management system, our goal was to make voter registration and access to voter information as accessible and transparent as possible, while making sure that our systems were secure and well-defended.

The results speak for themselves:

In the recently released MIT Elections Performance Index, widely considered the most objective, data-driven evaluation of state election administration, Vermont was ranked first overall in the nation.

Our online voter tools have made it easier for Vermont voters to register, request and track early ballots, and find information about election dates and polling places.

In fact, we were excited to announce recently that our voter registration numbers have hit an all-time high– 481,632 as of Oct. 22. That’s compared to 471,619 registered voters on Election Day in 2016. Good work, Vermont!

How have we been able to make such progress getting Vermont voters registered and ready to vote?

Online and automatic voter registration:

Our easy-to-use online voter registration tools, in addition to automatic registration in partnership with the Department of Motor Vehicles play a huge role. By ensuring that every eligible voter who renews their license at the DMV is registered to vote (unless they opt out) we are increasing voter access. These tools help us clean up our voter registration database, improve accuracy and integrity while saving both time and money.

Election Day registration:

Voting is a constitutionally protected right. Denying any eligible voter their right to cast a ballot is an affront to our democracy. That’s why I’m proud that Vermont is one of 18 states that has implemented Election Day registration. No eligible voter will be turned away on Election Day. We should all be proud of this.

Early voting and absentee ballots:

For many, getting to the polls on Election Day might not be possible. Busy family and work schedules can often get in the way, and voters who are homebound with a disability may have challenges getting to their local polling place. Voting early, either in person at the local municipal clerk’s office or by mail, is a great way to ensure that your voice is heard on Election Day.

As of Oct. 22, more than 34,500 voters have requested an early ballot, surpassing the total number of early ballots cast in the 2014 midterms. It’s easy to request an early ballot. You can do so directly with your local municipal clerk in person, by phone, or by email. You can also visit mvp.sec.state.vt.us to log in to your unique My Voter Page, request your ballot, and even track when your request was received, when your ballot was sent out, and when it was received back.

Accessible voting for all Vermonters

This year we’ve launched a new accessible voting system to ensure that voters with a disability can vote their ballot privately and independently.

This ADA-compliant system uses a tablet and assistive technology enabling voters to select and confirm their votes either at the polls or at home early, and then print a ballot with their selections to be returned and counted alongside other voted ballots. Every voter has a right to vote privately and independently.

You can contact your local municipal clerk to learn more about this new accessible voting system.

Regardless of why you’re voting, or who you’re voting for, I hope that you’ll join us at the polls on Nov. 6, or cast an early ballot today. You can visit online at sec.state.vt.us/elections/voters to get important voter information in advance.

Last week, Vermont was the talk of the nation when we announced our record voter registration numbers. Let’s show our Vermont civic pride by being the talk of the country again with record high turnout numbers on Nov. 6.

Remember: Your vote is your voice! See you at the polls.

Jim Condos is Vermont’s secretary of state.

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