Haven’t mailed in your ballot yet? Better drop it off in person.

Drive-by mailboxes bearing the logo of the United States Postal Service on Elmwood Avenue in Burlington. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

If you haven’t mailed your ballot back in yet, the Secretary of State’s Office said it’s probably best you hand it in to your local town or city clerk in person — or drop it into a dedicated, secure ballot drop box if your town has one.

Primary day is a week from Tuesday, on Aug. 9. Out of an abundance of caution, Vermont’s top election officials on Monday said those who are voting early should do so in person instead of sending their ballots back through the mail. Over 200 towns also have at least one dedicated ballot drop box that voters can use as an alternative.

Tales of slow or erratic mail delivery in the pandemic era have perennially popped up on Front Porch Forum as the U.S. Postal Service deals with chronic labor shortages. And while that’s a concern, Secretary of State Jim Condos said his office hasn’t received reports of election mail being held up –– and has gotten assurances from the postal service that election mail will be given priority.

(A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service, Stephen Doherty, declined an interview, and did not respond to written questions.)

Still, just to be safe, Condos said his office is re-upping the advice he said his office gave to Vermonters in 2020, when the state first dramatically scaled up its use of mail-in balloting: Send your ballot back at least seven to 10 days before the primary. He noted that Vermont doesn’t count ballots that arrive after the election, even if they were postmarked earlier.

“If it gets to Election Day and you still have your ballot, you really should bring it to the polling location,” he said.

As of Monday afternoon, just shy of 52,000 Vermonters had requested a mail-in ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. A little under half — 25,616 — have already been returned and received by local clerks. According to Condos, that’s about two-and-half times the volume of absentee ballots that the state saw in 2018, the last midterm election.

If you’ve mailed in your ballot already and you want to make sure it got to your town clerk’s office, you can check its status through the My Voter portal on the secretary of state’s website. If it says “RECEIVED” under the ballot status, according to Condos, you’re all good. If it says “DEFECTIVE,” that means you filled out your ballot wrong or sent it in incorrectly. 

In that event, you can fix your ballot by contacting your town or city clerk. A new law meant to help voters correct defective ballots also means you’re likely to get a postcard from your clerk flagging that there’s a mistake with your ballot.

Officials with the campaigns of Lt. Gov. Molly Gray and state Sen. Becca Balint, the leading candidates in the Democratic primary for Vermont’s sole U.S. House seat, said they were amplifying the secretary of state’s messaging in their get-out-the-vote efforts.

Vermonters who want to vote early can also go to their town clerk during regular business hours, pick up a ballot, fill it out right there and turn it in. Natalie Silver, Balint’s campaign manager, said her team was also encouraging people to vote early by doing just that, instead of relying on the mail-in process.

“The mail-in ballot process for the primary is a little complicated. You have three ballots, you have to pick the right one, and then you have to return the other two in a special envelope or your entire vote doesn't count,” Silver said. “We've found that sometimes for voters with disabilities or older voters, it can be hard.”

Voters can, of course, also cast their ballots the old-fashioned way — by going to their local polling station on the day of the primary. You can also find your polling place using the My Voter page on the Secretary of State's Office.

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Lola Duffort

About Lola

Lola Duffort is a political reporter for VTDigger, covering Vermont state government, the congressional delegation and elections. She previously covered education for Digger, the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire and the Rutland Herald. She has also freelanced for the Miami Herald in Florida, where she grew up. She is a graduate of McGill University in Canada.

Email: [email protected]

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