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Vermont Municipal Clerks’ and Treasurers’ Association Concerned with outcome of H.512

Posted by  Tuesday, 02 May 2017 03:26 PM
FROM VT MUNICIPAL CLERKS' AND TREASURERS' ASSOCIATION PRESS RELEASE

The Vermont Municipal Clerks’ and Treasurers’ Association is very concerned with H. 512, as passed out of the Senate House Government Operations Committee, and currently under consideration by the full Senate.  Specifically, the bill fails to include a critical preparation day to reconcile voter registrations and absentee ballots with a checklist to be used during voting.

For the past few years municipal clerks have requested a comprehensive review of all election statutes, with an eye towards balancing increasing election procedure requirements with maintaining the integrity and accuracy of the process.  H. 512 is a compilation of bills that grew out of the 2017 legislative session, along with other election reforms being proposed by the Secretary of State’s office.  It does little to address our concerns about the proliferation of tasks clerks are required to perform in advance of, during and following elections, and actually adds additional duties to an already packed list.  Clerks are not complaining about the workload – we are devoted to our towns and residents, and consider elections one of the most sacred of the duties with which the voters have entrusted us.  The integrity of the election process is of paramount importance to us.  Additional duties and reporting requirements have stretched our limited assets to the breaking point, and endanger the integrity and accuracy of elections.

Summary of facts:

In the past few years, Vermont changes to election laws:

  • Removed of all “gap” days between end of voter registration period and election day, thereby leaving no time to reconcile voter checklists
  • Unlimited early absentee voting
  • On-line voter registration
  • Same day voter registration
  • Automatic DMV voter registration
  • Mandatory election reporting at the end of the election day

Each of these requirements has contributed to the overcrowding of a clerk’s pre-election and Election Day schedule.  Without time to reflect upon and review our processes and materials, there is an increasing risk of errors – through no fault of our own.  With the continuing increase in early absentee voting, and the recent elimination of the voter registration deadline the week before elections, there is no time to reconcile records in the pre-election schedule.  Clerks have asked for one “gap” day in order to be able to prepare for and run efficient elections. The day before the election is needed as a “gap” day with a moratorium on early absentee voting and voter registration to allow clerks to account for all absentee ballots, print checklists, process absentee ballots and set up their polling locations for the election.

Not having deadlines for voter registration and early absentee voting requires clerks to create their own deadlines so they can account for ballots received, processed and ready to be delivered, and for finalization and printing of voter checklists. Each clerk has developed their own way to deal with the shrinking time available for pre-election prep, and there are as many procedures being followed as there are communities in the state.  We are looking for uniformity in process across towns of all size – a process that respects the work to be done, the timeframe in which it must be done, and those who are doing it. H. 512, with no extra day to perform this important the important preparation work to ensure accurate checklists, fails to address our concerns for accurate election records.

 

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