Primary day in Vermont is Aug. 14, with a host of races on the ballot — including Democrats making their pick for their gubernatorial candidate in November, and the incumbent Republican governor facing a challenge from within his own party. Behind the scenes, election officials say they are increasingly focused on securing the vote from hackers. Even in tiny Montpelier, so far from Washington, election meddling is on the mind of some voters, after near-daily headlines of Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 elections. “Hopefully they have better things to do,” voter Bill Provost said of election hackers from Russia or elsewhere.
Articles about voting issues in Vermont.
When Sharon Draper first became clerk of the lakeside town of Elmore, there were about 250 registered voters. That has grown over the years to approximately 700. But for many elections, the number of voters is still not robust enough to justify the expense of using a tabulator, so the paper ballots are counted by hand. As to fraud concerns, Draper says she doesn’t worry. She knows most of the people in town. “There just are not any security issues, I feel, in a little town like Elmore,” Draper said. Since revelations that 21 states’ systems were targeted by Russian hackers in the 2016 election, security of the democratic process has been a major concern across the country. Election security has been the subject of congressional reports and hearings. Lawmakers approved an expenditure of $380 million earlier this year to help jurisdictions buttress their systems.
Whether by design or accident, Vermont’s founders imposed no age requirement on those who could run for governor of this state. Town officials in Vermont must be legal voters, meaning they have taken the voter’s oath and are at least 18 years old. No such requirement exists for Vermont’s highest office. The constitutional quirk paved the way for Ethan Sonneborn, 13, of Bristol, to announce this summer that he’s running for governor. Eligible candidates must have simply lived in Vermont for four years before the election — “which I’ve tripled, and then some,” said Sonneborn, a 13-year resident of Vermont. The youngest governor to lead Vermont was F. Ray Keyser, Jr., who was 34 years old when he took office in 1961, according to the state Archives and Records Administration. Sonneborn, who is starting eighth grade this fall at Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School, hopes to beat that record by a good 20 years.
Secretary of State Jim Condos has stepped up his rebuff of the Trump administration, saying he won’t comply — for now — with the demand that secretaries of state nationwide provide voter information to a federal commission investigating claims of election fraud. The Election Integrity Commission on Wednesday asked for voters’ dates of birth, voter histories, party affiliations, felony convictions, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal information, according to Condos’ office. Condos said last week that he is “bound by law” to provide limited information that is publicly available. But Monday, citing new information and a public outcry over the weekend, Condos issued a statement saying he wouldn’t send any information until receiving certain assurances from the Trump administration.
Vermont: State And Local Officials On High Alert For Breaches In Vermont’s Election System | Vermont Public Radio
Secretary of State Jim Condos says his office is actively taking steps to protect the state’s election system from being manipulated by foreign or domestic computer hackers, but says there’s no evidence so far to indicate that Vermont’s voting system was breached. Following reports of Russian efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Homeland Security has reached out to individual states to help strengthen the security of their voting systems. Condos says this issue has become an ongoing and critically important concern for his office.
The Vermont Municipal Clerks’ and Treasurers’ Association is raising concerns that already hardworking election officials would be overloaded by a pending House bill intended to address controversy over legislative-race recounts last fall. “The last couple years there’s been so much coming at us that something’s going to break,” said Karen Richard, the town clerk for Colchester, Vt., who also heads the association’s legislative committee. Richard cited several mandates that have come down from the Legislature in the past few years, including requirements that clerks report unofficial results to the Secretary of State’s Office on Election Day and deal with same-day registrants, online registration, automatic DMV registration and unlimited early absentee voting.
A Vermont federal court has confirmed a prior ruling, in Corren versus Donovan and Condos, that Vermont’s public financing statute is constitutional. In its decision(link is external) on Thursday, the Court also ruled that Plaintiffs are not entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees for the action. The case refers to the 2014 Progressive/Democrat candidate for lieutenant governor Dean Corren versus Attorney General TJ Donovan and Secretary of State Jim Condos. The federal lawsuit was filed in 2015 in an attempt block the state from pursuing a campaign finance law enforcement action in state court. Plaintiffs also asked the Court to declare Vermont’s system for the public financing of election campaigns unconstitutional.
The small Vermont community most famous as the birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge abruptly canceled its Australian ballot vote on Tuesday’s Town Meeting Day, and is now readying for a do-over. “This was an honest mistake,” said Russ Tonkin of the Plymouth Select Board. “And we will make it right.” Tonkin said about 90 of Plymouth’s nearly 500 registered voters had cast their ballots in the local election when the select board shut down the process midday, voiding those votes. “We didn’t want to waste anybody else’s time,” Tonkin added.
More than three months after the last vote was cast, Vermont’s election season appears to be finally over. Republican Robert Frenier’s state House seat is safe after a second recount effort, this time in the Vermont House, came to a sudden halt Wednesday morning. The recount of a race between five-term incumbent progressive Susan Hatch Davis and Frenier was stopped on a technicality moments after it began. About two dozen lawmakers met to begin the recount Wednesday morning at the Vermont Statehouse. Recount leaders then announced that a bag containing ballots from Chelsea, Vermont, had a different identification number than was expected, which under House rules amounts to a “tampering” violation and ends the process.
A second recount for a state House seat has some Republicans and town clerks crying foul, but Democrats say the incumbent who lost has a right to ask the Legislature to resolve the contested election. Susan Hatch Davis, a Progressive from Washington, went to court after the November vote showed Republican Robert Frenier of Chelsea beat her by eight votes, and a recount showed he won by seven. The court refused to authorize a second recount, so Davis asked the Legislature to intervene. Now the House Republican leader is accusing Democrats of trying to steal a seat to prevent the GOP from sustaining a governor’s veto.