Susan Beard of Rutland in a letter published on June 23, questions absentee ballot procedures. I think she has misconceptions about the process, as may many others.
In Vermont, voters return an absentee ballot in a sealed envelope they then put into an outside envelope addressed to the town or city. On the front of the sealed envelope containing the ballot itself is an affidavit the voter must sign and date. The town or city clerk or another election official opens the outside envelope and looks at the voter name on the inside envelope in order to check that name off the checklist as having voted absentee. (The checklist will already show that the voter requested an absentee ballot.) That official then opens the inside sealed envelope, and without looking at the ballot, deposits it in either the ballot box or the tabulator, whichever is the case in that town.
In our town and likely many others, this process actually involves two people— one opens the envelopes to read the name, and one checks off the name on the checklist. Should that same voter then appear at the polls thinking to vote again, he or she would be refused. Finally, when the polls close, the number of ballots cast in a town must agree with the number of people checked off on the checklist.
In other words, no one should fear that absentee ballots when returned are all cast helter-skelter into some ballot box or tabulator without verifying the names of the voters who requested and returned them. Nor is there any way a voter can duplicate a ballot and return more than one. The systems in this state simply do not allow it. It is hard to see that systems elsewhere would be much different.
I hope this helps clarify the process for anyone who may be unsure about it.
Patricia Richardson is a Hartland Board of Civil Authority member.