Registered voters across Vermont have received their ballots in the mail, and many have already been returned to town clerks.

Across the state — and the nation — there is much at stake. Voters are having to consider the course of action for the next few years, as we crawl out from an economic crisis, the likes we have not seen in decades.

As we saw in the 2020 Election Guide that was published on these pages earlier this week, local candidates are very concerned about the next steps because there are so many unknown factors still in play as result of the pandemic.

But there is a greater concern about this election playing out on the national level. It is creating a level of discomfort — and in some cases, fear. What we are seeing are levels of interference. And commentators, editorial writers and more than a few pundits are warning that some politicians are playing a dangerous game at voters’ expense.

As the Denver Post noted this week, “The president’s potential illness now that he has been exposed to the novel coronavirus and has tested positive will only increase the chance of catastrophe. We should all be praying that the president has a mild illness and a fast recovery — not only out of compassion; it will be good for our democracy.”

Like the good work of Vermont’s Secretary of State Jim Condos, his staff, and the dedicated work of Vermont’s town clerks, Americans need assurances. We are lucky, in such a small state and with great access to our public officials, to get the message out.

But that is not the case in much of the nation right now.

We need all elected officials, regardless of party, to stand up and ensure November’s election is secure and that voters in America have faith in the results.

As the Washington Post noted, “Democrats and Republicans have been playing this game for years: Democrats accuse Republicans of voter suppression and Republicans accuse Democrats of lax voter security. There is always a kernel of truth in both complaints.”

By example, the Republican governor of Texas is limiting ballot drop off boxes to one per-county. That might work in Vermont. But Harris County, Texas, has 4.7 million residents.

In New York City, the board of elections, led by a Democrat, had to reprint 100,000 ballots after the original were sent to voters with the wrong voter information on the “oath envelope.” It has caused widespread confusion.

But as the first presidential debate demonstrated, the suppression issue has been taken to a new level. President Trump has repeatedly claimed — beginning after he lost the national popular vote in 2016 — that Democrats are trying to steal the election via fraud.

To be clear: Voter fraud is when a ballot is cast that doesn’t represent an actual, eligible voter or it is cast by someone other than the voter it is said to represent. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and certainly no evidence of a vast conspiracy to steal the election.

According to published reports, there is evidence, however, of isolated fraud (cases have been prosecuted), and isolated errors in ballot printing, ballot counting, and many incidents where ballots are being sent in the mail to people who no longer live at the address and even people who are deceased.

The chorus of concern is growing, and we concur: We cannot sweep those incidents under the rug, and we must address them directly with real solutions.

“No one is wrong to highlight the potential for abuse of our election system and to demand election officials tighten election security. That kind of constructive criticism will only improve Americans’ confidence in the outcome of the election. On the other hand, Trump’s words are a concrete threat to our democracy if voters believe them,” the Denver newspaper wrote.

Here in Vermont, Condos was telling Vermonters that the election cycle was safe, doing so months before the August presidential primary and the General Election — both of which are seeing a deluge of mailed ballots being returned.

It seems unlikely there will be attempts of suppression — be it by mail voting or at the polls — by virtue of the nature of our state: We respect the democratic process.

There is an inherent trust in knowing that process works as it should, especially in days of uncertainty. Our act of voting in this General Election not only sends our message for a direction, it reaffirms that Vermonters honor that right to decide freely.

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