Overseas vote-by-email bill clears VT House, Senate

Election bill also prevents ‘sore loser’ party switches, requires reporting of candidate gender, race, age

By Guy Page

A bill approved by both the Vermont House and the Senate would allow registered voters living outside the United States to cast absentee ballots via email to a secure portal established by the Vermont Secretary of State. 

Electronic balloting is just one feature of H.429, a collection of election law changes. It passed the House March 3. An amended version narrowly passed the Senate by a 16-14 vote on May 12, the final day of the 2023 Legislature. But because of the Senate changes to the House version, it won’t become law this year. House and Senate leaders are likely to seek reconciliation of the two versions in 2024. 

Current law allows absentee voters living overseas to receive – but not return – their ballots via email. Once completed, they may fax or mail the ballots to their municipality, or have them picked up by two justices of the peace. However, returning absentees by email is forbidden. 

If H.429 passes, it will mark the first time casting ballots by email would be allowed in Vermont under any circumstances. The changes would apply to “Overseas voters,” defined by Senate Gov Op’s May 8 amendment (see pg. 9) as “a person who is qualified to vote in Vermont and resides outside the United States, meaning the several states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, and military voters who by reason of active military duty are absent from the United States.”

The overseas voter also would be sent electronically, and required to return with an electronically-returned ballot, a signing certificate, attesting to the voter’s name and registered municipality. 

The electronically-delivered ballot would be counted by means of a secure online portal administered by the Secretary of State, directly to the clerk before the close of business on the last day the clerk’s office is open prior to the election, with electronic signature on the certificate required prior to submitting the ballot to the clerk.

The Senate version of H429 also includes the following proposals:

Sore Loser Law – A candidate who loses a major party primary be nominated to appear on the general election ballot by a committee of any party other than the party for which the candidate

appeared on the primary ballot. For example, the loser of a Republican primary cannot appear on the general election ballot as a Libertarian, unless he/she also won the Libertarian nomination in the primary. 

Limit on candidate contributions to a party – a political party shall accept not more than $20,000 from a candidate for State office. For example, a well-supported, unopposed candidate for state office cannot give more than $20K to his party, for the benefit of fellow party members fighting tougher races with less money. 

Candidate gender, age, race, ethnicity reports – all town and county clerks who have received petitions shall notify file with the Secretary of State of the names of all candidates, including the name, gender, age, race or ethnicity, mailing address, and e-mail address of all candidates, to the extent this information is [voluntarily] provided by candidates. 

This information would be “exempt from public inspection and copying under the Public Records Act and shall be kept confidential, except that the Secretary of State may publish information pertaining to candidates’ gender, age, or race or ethnicity in aggregate form.” The same information on municipally-elected officials also would be collected. 

County candidates also must disclose tax returns – Candidates for state office are already required to disclose 1040 tax returns to the Secretary of State’s office. H429 would also require disclosure by candidates for county offices such as assistant judge, probate judge, sheriff, high bailiff, and State’s Attorney.

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman – a Progressive who ran and won last year as a Democrat – criticized the supermajority Democrat-led changes to the bill as a ‘poison pill.’

“It is unfortunate that poison pill provisions were forced into this bill as there are several pieces that I agree with. However, I believe wholeheartedly that, in an era marked by hyper partisanship, we must do everything in our power to increase voter choice, expand democracy and allow the halls of power to be accessible to people from all walks of life. Across the country we are seeing supermajorities working to reduce voter participation, increase party control and limit choice through election law reforms. With this bill we are seeing this is not just confined to only one party that has such power.”

Categories: Elections, Legislation

10 replies »

  1. I love how the state uses the word “secure” for everything like it actually means anything to them anymore.

    How many breeches have they had in the last few years?

    I think there’s a little bit of nuance here in the article. This is not a vote by email system. There will be a secure online portal where you submit digital copies of what you’ve received by email. They’ve been sending absentee ballots overseas at least to military by email for a little while now. The change here is that they used to require paper to come back via the mail. The problem with this is that overseas mail can take quite a bit of time, and sometimes votes wouldn’t be counted because they came in after the cut off.

    I can see a need for this but I can also see abuse that could come out of this.

    If the state were better with their IT security I probably wouldn’t be as concerned.

  2. I think the other important part about this bill that is being overlooked is this portion… It’s squarely aimed at Republicans who often don’t have candidates till the last second, scrambling to find someone to sit in the seat.

    (a) A write-in candidate shall not qualify as a primary winner unless he or
    she the candidate receives at least one-half the higher of:
    (1) 10 percent of the votes cast by a party plus one additional vote; or
    (2) the same number of votes as the number of signatures required for
    his or her the candidate’s office on a primary petition, except that if a write-in
    candidate receives more votes than a candidate whose name is printed on the
    ballot, he or she may the write-in candidate shall qualify as a primary winner.
    (b) The write-in candidate who qualifies as a primary winner under this
    section must still be determined a winner under section 2369 of this chapter
    before he or she the candidate becomes the party’s candidate in the general

    Guess that won’t be happening anymore….

  3. Voting by email ???? Call me anything you want, but until that kind of remote ballot casting includes the ability to check these votes against fingerprints, DNA, or a retinal scan, you can stick these in the same place as you put the piles of “free” ballots on park benches. What the hey is wrong with going to the polling place on the day of an election and voting in person ? If you can’t unless I am mistaken, there is already an accepted way of voting in absentia which has served well, and is relatively secure.

  4. What if someone is orbiting in outer space? Has the state thought of the possibility of a scenario wherein a bipoc, homosexual, transgender 16-year-old non-citizen at an advanced-type space camp wishes to vote in a local VT election? No? Why not?? I believe I’m witnessing some discrimination here from Montpelier.

  5. It may be easier in the long run to allow the People’s Republic of Vermont to secede entirely and enable the ensuing anarchy to clean the place out.

    It does become tiresome watching the antics continue…

  6. I’m a retired security guy living overseas and voting by e mail is a surefire way to insure elections are fixed and free and clear elections will no longer exist, ever, because once that fix is in, there is no way back, because they who control the e mails, control the elections. Don’t be suckers.

  7. Again, TPTB want to spray ballots all over the place, and let non-citizens, under-agers, etc., vote. Yet I was turned away at the 2020 election because I would not sign an affidavit and “swear that I had not already voted by mail”.

  8. Psalm 34:21 – Evil Will Eventually Destroy Itself

    (excerpt from http://www.tellthelordthankyou.com)

    Psalm 34:21 Evil will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

    We are living in a world where “evil” has become common place. No thought against it, just a constant moving forward with it. Oh, what a terrible place to be in your mind.

    In a battle with the enemy? Trouble on every hand? Does the enemy attack appears to be relentless? No need to fear, worry nor fight, but trust God instead, because power belongs to God!

    Believe it or not, but evildoers will eventually destroy themselves. The ungodly only need enough rope to hang themselves. Their own iniquities shall be their punishment. Yes, wickedness is its own executioner. The evildoer’s wickedness, though designed against others, shall destroy him or herself.

    ‘Fear no evil for I am with you,’ says the Lord.

    The Psalmist in this text gives a contrast between the righteous and the wicked, for He said, ‘the wicked will be slain by evil, they will be destroyed by their own wickedness, they suffer affliction and God’s wrath and because of their hate for the righteous, they will be condemned.’

    We are reminded in Psalm 37:7-Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

  9. Folks be prepared for all the bull dung crossing the borders!! God bless 🙏

  10. If they can’t cheat, they can’t win. We don’t have elections, we have selctions. The Durham report explains how and who.