Vermont Breaks Previous Absentee Ballot Voting Record | Off Message

Vermont Breaks Previous Absentee Ballot Voting Record


  • © Aurielaki |
More Vermonters have cast absentee ballots ahead of the November general election than any other in state history — and there are still three weeks of voting left.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, 95,885 residents have returned absentee ballots as of Tuesday afternoon, surpassing the previous general election record of 95,203, set in 2016.

And while the unprecedented showing was largely expected after Vermont sent an absentee ballot to every registered, active voter this fall to reduce traffic at the polls amid the coronavirus pandemic, voters appear to be returning those ballots at a notably high clip.

On Monday, Vermont became the first state whose early voting returns exceeded 25 percent of its total ballots cast in the last presidential election, according to a database from a University of Florida professor that reflects early voting returns from 38 states.

"Our hard work preparing for the 2020 General Election during the COVID-19 health crisis has paid off already, as Vermonters have overwhelmingly embraced safe and secure voting options to cast their ballots," Secretary of State Jim Condos said in a statement to Seven Days on Tuesday.

The latest development follows a similar record-breaking performance in the August 11 primary and arrives less than two weeks after Vermont finished sending ballots to some 438,000 voters as part of the state's first-ever vote-by-mail election.

Vermonters who prefer to vote in person can still do so on Election Day at their local polling station. They can also drop off their ballot at their town clerk's office any day leading up to the election. Or they can drop off their absentee ballot at the polls.

Condos told reporters last week that people still planning to mail their ballot should do so by October 24 to ensure that it arrives on time. Anyone who has not yet received a ballot should contact their town clerk.
Condos has urged people to vote as early as they feel comfortable to "flatten the absentee ballot curve" and prevent a last-minute logjam. To alleviate some of that pressure, Condos has allowed town clerks to start tabulating ballots a month out from Election Day, but they cannot report any results until after the polls close.

The number of absentee ballots will climb even higher in the coming days and weeks as voters make their final decisions on a slew of races covering every statewide and legislative office.

With voting now easier than ever, hopes are high that Vermont can eclipse its highest-ever presidential election turnout of 326,822, set in 2008. And while it could take days or even weeks to determine who prevails in the presidential race, Condos remains confident that Vermonters would know the victors of most races on Election Day.

"During the primary, we had 98 percent of the poll locations reporting by midnight on election night," Condos told reporters last week. "Never say never, but ... we expect that it will happen again."