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Vermont Republican Governor Signs Law Expanding Mail-In Ballots

Vermont governor Phil Scott speaks to the press in Montpelier, Vt., March 13, 2018. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott signed a bill Monday mandating that registered voters in the state be sent mail-in ballots in advance of the general election, departing from other GOP governors that have recently limited this practice in their states’ voting systems.

The act, S.15, relates to mailing out ballots, correcting defective ballots, as well as other miscellaneous changes to state election laws. The legislation advanced through both chambers of the Democratic-dominated state legislature and solidified the broadening of mail-in voting that was passed during the pandemic, Vermont Digger reported. The measure permits voters to fix a ballot that poll workers disqualified for being completed improperly as an additional safeguard for ensuring that valid ballots are counted.

“I’m signing this bill because I believe making sure voting is easy and accessible and increasing voter participation is important. Having said that, we should not limit this expansion of access to general elections alone, which already have the highest turnout,” Scott said in a statement.

“I am asking the General Assembly to extend the provisions of this bill to primary elections, local elections and school budget votes when they return to session in January,” he added.

Vermont boasts a record of high-voter turnout in general elections, generating 74.2% participation, three quarters of which percentage cast their ballot by mail, in the 2020 presidential race, according to data from Vermont’s secretary of state office.

A poll conducted by the independent firm Lincoln Park Strategies found that 68 percent of Vermont voters prefer to vote by mail with 29 percent opposing.

While a few Republican-controlled legislatures have followed Vermont’s trend, a number of other states with Republican governors, such as Florida and Georgia, have restricted mail-in balloting and expanded voter identification rules in an attempt to improve voter integrity and tabulation transparency.

In April, Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis enacted a law that stipulated new signature requirements for voting by mail and reduced drop box accessibility to certain time windows. Florida’s action mirrored the Georgia elections bill, which called for changing the processes for requesting an absentee ballot, including mandating that voters present valid forms of photo identification.

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