After Errors During Primary, Vt. Election Officials Urge Attention to Ballot Directions

More than 6,000 primary ballots had to be thrown out in Vermont because people didn't follow voting directions

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Voting is well underway in Vermont, where ballots for November's general election are automatically being sent this year to every active registered voter in the state.

They should be arriving to homes in the coming days, if they haven't already.

"This is so easy," said Nancy Haff of Williston, who returned her ballot Tuesday to a new drop box behind the town hall, just a day after receiving it.

For people who have yet to fill out their ballots, election officials are urging voters to pay careful attention to directions, to ensure votes are counted.

"Your vote is your voice," said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat.

Condos said in August's primary election, roughly 3.5% of ballots statewide had to be thrown out because of errors. People forgot to sign or seal ballot envelopes in many cases.

All together, more than 6,000 ballots were tossed, Condos said—a number which could be a potential game-changer in tight races.

"Back around 1980, Bernie Sanders won the mayor of Burlington by 10 votes," Condos said, reminding Vermonters about the potential significance of individual ballots.

Granted, for the general election, things are simpler than they were in the primary. There's just one ballot this time around—not the three for the parties in the state primary that could've confused some voters.

"This is much easier than August," said Sarah Mason, Williston's town clerk.

Mason said to ensure your vote is counted in November, you'll have to fill in the bubbles on your ballot, put the completed ballot in the specific envelope that calls for you to print and sign your name on the front, then date it, and seal the envelope before returning it.

Don't forget to check both sides of the ballot, Mason advised, and be mindful of the number of candidates you're allowed to vote for—such as in the race for Vermont State Senate.

If you're undecided right now or think you may change your mind, be aware you won't be able to request a do-over after you've voted, Mason emphasized.

"In that case, wait til we're a little closer, maybe—til the end of October," she suggested to undecided voters.

Mason and Condos each said if you're mailing your ballot back, plan to send it by October 24 to make sure it's received on time.

The U.S. Postal Service isn’t delivering mail as quickly as it should, but the delays don’t appear significant enough – at this time – to disrupt an election, according to a September test by NBCLX and NBC Owned Television Stations.

Alternatively, you could bring your completed ballot by hand to your city or town clerk, or to the polling place on Election Day.

Many people are expected to still choose to vote in-person on Election Day, at polling places in their communities that will be operational but with tweaks to prevent COVID-19 infections.

For answers to other questions you may have about voting in Vermont, visit the website from Secretary of State Condos's office.

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