Vermonters will have expanded opportunities to vote by mail, or at outdoor and drive through polling locations, for the upcoming 2020 statewide elections, the first to occur during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary of State Jim Condos issued a directive this week to make voting in 2020 safe and accessible.
In the August primary, Vermonters will vote among major party candidates for US. representative, governor, lieutenant governor, state senators and representatives, state Treasurer, secretary of state, auditor of accounts, attorney general and high bailiff.
In November, they will vote for U.S. president and vice president, U.S. representative, and Vermont governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state, auditor of accounts and attorney general. Vermonters will also elect state senators, state representatives, high bailiffs and justices of the peace.
Here’s what you need to know about voting in the August primary and November general election.
How mail-in ballots will work
For the August 11 primary:
- Early voting has been underway for the statewide primary since June 26. All registered Vermont voters should have received information by mail about requesting an absentee ballot.
For the November 3 general election:
- All active voters will receive a ballot by mail for the general election.
- Sending of those ballots will begin on Sept. 18.
- All envelopes will be prepaid; the costs of returning the ballot will be covered by the Secretary of State’s office.
- After voters receive a mail-in ballot they can still choose to ignore the absentee ballot, and can vote at the polls instead. However, they will need to sign a sworn affidavit saying that have not already cast any ballot.
Voting by mail is nothing new
Tens of thousands of Vermonters have voted by mail in past elections, according to a statement from the Office of the Secretary of State, and the practice is not new to this election.
Condos noted that five states already conduct their elections entirely by mail, and members of the military have always voted by mail. Thirty-four states offer no-excuse absentee voting, where any voter can request to vote by mail for any reason they wish.
Condos also described the mail in ballot process as secure. One stipulation of the new directive is that neither candidates who are on the ballot nor their campaign staff are allowed to be the one to return ballots to a town clerk.
They are allowed to return their own ballots or those of immediate family members.
What if I want to vote in person?
There may be outdoor polling locations this year for both the August primary and November election. Polling will be conducted the same way it has been in the past at indoor polling locations, and there will be bad weather alternatives to those outdoor sites at the same locations.
Some locations will use a drive through voting method. Walk-up voters will also be accommodated at these sites. Secure ballot boxes will be brought to the windows of cars, or will be accessible in a drive-by manner, or ballots will be handed to election officials inside of envelopes.
You can still register to vote in person at a drive through site.
- Face masks may be required at some polling locations; those locations will be required to provide disposable masks. If a voter refuses to wear a mask in the polling location, they must be provided with an alternative, safe method of voting.
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