The Senate did the right thing by giving approval to S.15 — a bill to make it easier for eligible Vermont voters to participate in elections.

The bill requires local officials to mail ballots to all registered voters in the weeks leading up to November elections. The push for the legislation came in the wake of the 2020 General Election in which state officials automatically sent voters ballots to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the polls.

That election broke turnout records across the state.

The argument in support of the bill is that making voting easier leads to better representation from the voters. The governor has said he supports the bill, which, after receiving overwhelming tripartisan support in the Senate, now heads to the House.

We hope it passes overwhelmingly. It is the right decision for Vermont.

As we have chronicled in these pages for a year now, coronavirus has changed every aspect of our lives. And while it has been a tedious, cumbersome nuisance with many attributes, it also has caused us as a society to change our routines, workflows and habits to adapt. Many of these changes have led to cost-savings and efficiencies — rare silver linings during a troubling, challenging time.

Voting is improved by this process.

In a statement issued Thursday, Secretary of State Jim Condos — an ardent supporter of mailing ballots to Vermonters — commended the senators.

“S.15 is a monumental step forward for voter access to the ballot box,” the secretary wrote. “Here in Vermont, and nationally, vote by mail has been shown to dramatically increase voter participation in the elections process. I am a firm believer that our democracy is stronger when we all participate.”

He went on to say that the state has a long and consistent track record of increasing ballot access in Vermont.

“After conducting a highly successful universal ballot mailing to ensure safe voting for the 2020 election during the height of the pandemic, we heard loud and clear that Vermonters embraced voting by mail with their record-shattering voter turnout. This bill will make it easier for eligible Vermont voters to have their voices heard in the electoral process,” Condos noted.

He is not wrong when he says S.15 “represents the most significant expansion to voter access through vote by mail in Vermont history and greatly increases the options voters have to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.”

Voting by mail on a large scale has been proven as a safe and secure method of ballot delivery, here in Vermont and nationally.

In the months leading up to recent elections, especially since accusations of hackers from foreign nations attempting to change the outcome of major elections, Condos has continually assured Vermonters the process is secure and safe. Those reassurances make this the right foundation at the right time to further ensure access to ballots.

“I am eager to continue discussions on this critical legislation in the House and strongly support its passage so that Vermont can join the five other states that have been doing this for years,” Condos said. “I also look forward to ongoing discussions for how we can further expand the vote by mail process to other Vermont elections, growing democracy at all levels in a common-sense, right-fit manner that is best for our state.”

According to VTDigger, though the legislation wouldn’t require towns to mail ballots for Town Meeting Day, it would give municipalities and school boards flexibility to use vote-by-mail in future local elections.

The Senate bill would also give voters an opportunity to fix their mail-in ballots if they’re “defective,” meaning they can’t be counted because they were filled out or mailed back incorrectly. Local officials would need to contact voters if their ballots were faulty and give them the chance to fix the mistake, VTDigger reported.

In the lead-up to every election (and Town Meeting Day) we encourage voters to get out and use their constitutional right. Now, with the possibility the ballot will be delivered to the homes of registered voters, the excuse not to participate is even weaker.

This bill provides access and eliminates concerns over intimidation or limited access to the ballot box — accusations that came out of the last election cycle.

Our vote is to serve Vermonters in the easiest way possible when it comes to deciding elections.

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