Editorial: Expand voting by mail
In light of COVID-19, social distancing and the upcoming primaries in August, and the General Election in November, Vermont’s Sec. of State James Condos has been mulling the possibility of expanding voting by mail for the past several weeks. To that end, the Legislature gave Sec. Condos the power to craft changes in election law to allow more voting by mail with the stipulation that any plan be approved by the governor.
The Legislature most likely thought that was the simplest way to implement the changes. But in an unusual turn of events, Condos has run into bewildering opposition by Gov. Scott.
The governor hasn’t vehemently opposed the idea and has said he would not veto such legislation if a bill were passed by the Legislature, but he refuses to work with Condos to put an effective strategy in place for the coming elections without going through the legislative process.
Few seem to understand Scott’s thinking. The governor has not embraced Trump’s and the national Republican Party’s partisan opposition to mail-in voting, based on the reasoning that anytime more Americans cast votes that favors Democrats over Republicans. That very premise, of course, doesn’t coincide with the GOP’s game plan of suppressing the vote.
But surely Scott rejects such petty politics.
Three reasons to allow for more mail-in voting are obvious: by allowing citizens to vote by mail, we avoid crowds on election day and therefore protect the public’s health; the more citizens who vote, the stronger our democracy; and the process is also largely in place via the state’s 45-day, no excuse early/absentee-ballot voting system in which about 30 percent of Vermonters used in the elections of 2016 and 2018. Expanding that process might increase expenses, but the state received more than $3 million in federal aid designated for that very issue.
Furthermore, online voter registration and ballot requests already make it so that voters can register to vote, request, and track their ballots easily and efficiently. In short, it’s safe, easy, will increase voter participation and protects the public health. What’s not to like?
The easiest next step is for the governor to endorse a Condos-prepared plan and put it into action as soon as possible. Failing a move in that direction this week, the Legislature should wait no longer and pass a bill to that effect. It’s common sense legislation that has no downside.