Thanks to a comprehensive vote-by-mail law passed by Vermont’s Legislature last year, the majority of defective mail-in ballots cast in this month’s primary were able to be fixed, or “cured,” in time to be counted, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
More than 132,000 ballots were cast in the Aug. 9 primary, which saw the state’s second-highest primary turnout in history. Of those, more than 51,000 were early, absentee or mail-in ballots.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, clerks received 809 defective early ballots this year, or 0.6% of all ballots cast. Ballots are often deemed defective because of a voter’s mistake in filling it out. Examples include simple technical errors like using the wrong type of writing utensil or forgetting to sign the envelope.
Of those 809 defective ballots, voters were able to cure 492, leaving 317 defective (and unable to be counted) — making up only 0.25% of overall ballots cast in the primary.
In a written statement provided to VTDigger, Secretary of State Jim Condos celebrated the election’s low defective ballot rate, calling it “proof that when you work to remove barriers to the voting process, more people are able to successfully exercise their civic right to vote.”
By comparison, in the 2020 primary, Condos said approximately 3.5% of ballots were deemed defective. There was no process for voters to cure those defective ballots at the time.
“Every vote counts. This is why we have worked so hard to make sure every vote is counted,” Condos said. “The combination of better instructions, voter familiarity, and ballot curing has worked. … I want to thank the Legislature for working with us to create a ballot cure process that works.”
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group has strongly advocated in Montpelier for expanding voter accessibility in Vermont, and pushed for a ballot curing measure in last year’s bill.
Reached by phone on Friday, VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns was audibly excited when he was told the low rejection rate from last week’s primary, saying it was “exactly what we were hoping for when we were pressing for this in the Legislature.”
The state “is demonstrating that it's entirely possible to remove unnecessary barriers to voting and to do much more, really, than most states do to engage citizens in the process of participating in their democracy,” he said.
“We have made a number of improvements in the last decade in Vermont that I believe have made our state the most voter friendly state in the country,” Burns said. “And I think this ballot curing measure is just one more example of how Vermont has chosen, as a matter of public policy, to invite more people to participate in the process.”
2022 Election Briefs
- Update voter registration by Aug. 31 to guarantee mailed ballot, secretary of state says (August 25, 4:15 pm)
- Bernie Sanders endorses David Zuckerman’s bid for lieutenant governor (August 1, 6:14 pm)
- 2nd poll shows Becca Balint well ahead of Molly Gray (August 1, 5:15 pm)
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