Vermont Readies for Primary Day

More than 100,000 votes have already been returned through the state's vote-by-mail option

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Tuesday is Primary Day in Vermont, but even before the polls open, many voters have already cast ballots through a vote-by-mail option that was offered to anyone who wanted it because of COVID-19.

"This is certainly like no election we have ever experienced in recent history," observed Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat who is Vermont's chief elections officer.

Condos said he wants Vermonters to know polling places will be open Tuesday for in-person visits, even though mail-in voting was offered statewide.

Voters who choose the old-fashioned way will be expected to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, Condos noted.

"The high numbers of mail-in votes means that polling places will have manageable numbers and will be able to accommodate voters safely," Condos said Monday, also praising city and town clerks statewide for their work to adjust to the pandemic.

As of Monday morning, Condos told reporters that more than 104,000 vote-by-mail ballots had been returned, out of 152,000 requested.

There were nearly 490,000 registered voters in Vermont as of Monday, according to Condos's office.

Vermonters who received a ballot by mail but who still have it in their possession now have to bring it to their polling place by 7 p.m. Tuesday to make sure it's counted, Condos said.

In South Burlington, city clerk Donna Kinville said at least 300 ballots she received in the mail actually cannot be tabulated.

"It's sad," Kinville told NECN and NBC10 Boston. "I hate when those things happen."

Kinville said some folks apparently unfamiliar with the mail-in process made big mistakes like filling out ballots for multiple parties or not signing and sealing an official envelope containing their choice.

Directions were provided to voters, Kinville noted.

"We've had people call because we enter them into our computer and they call and say, 'It says defective. I want to come get a new ballot,'" Kinville said. "You can't. It's the same as being in the tabulator. Once you put it in the mail, it's done."

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, said he voted for himself by mail, over opponent Ralph Corbo.

Welch said the high interest in the vote-by-mail offering in Vermont indicates the need to support the U.S. Postal Service, so it's ready to handle ballots here and in other states in November.

"It's absolutely important that that be part of an aid package that would make certain the Post Office has the resources it needs to accommodate the desire Americans have to vote," Welch said.

If you're voting in-person in Vermont Tuesday, you're encouraged to bring your own dark-colored pen to reduce sharing pens in this era of coronavirus. Masks will also be expected unless medical conditions prevent them from being worn.

If voters forget a pen, most places will have them available.

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