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A Guide To Voting In Vermont For The 2020 General Election

An envelope with the word vote along the edge and a stamp reading official election mail
Vermont Secretary of State, Courtesy
/
A sample return envelope for Vermont's mail-in ballots (specifically, what they will look like for Websterville residents). Ballots will be delivered to every active, registered voter in the state.

Election Day is Nov. 3, 2020, and because of the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention financial problems at the U.S. Postal Service, VPR has received dozens of questions about what voting will look like this year. Here are some answers.

We'll continue updating this page with helpful information, so keep checking back! Have questions you don't see answered here? Share them with us in our brief election survey.

Want to see a cartoon version of this guide? Click here.

Who can register to vote in Vermont, and how do you do it?

Anyone who considers Vermont their primary residence, is a U.S. citizen and will be 18-years-old on Nov. 3 can register to vote here, and can do it anytime, including on Election Day. This includes college students here from out-of-state or those from Vermont attending a school out-of-state, military members, people who are incarcerated, people who are houseless, in nursing homes or living abroad.

To register, you need to:

  • Have a photocopy of a driver’s license OR a passport OR a current utility bill OR a current bank statement OR another government document, something that has your name and current address on it. 
  • Take the voter’s oath (it can be self-administered). 
  • Request a voter application from your town/city’s clerk’s office or online, fill it out and submit. If you’re registering to vote online, be sure to do it no later than Friday, Oct. 30 if you want to vote on Nov. 3. (If you’re mailing in your registration application, give yourself plenty of extra time — USPS recommends sending election-related mail at least a week in advance of your desired arrival date).

How do you vote?

Here's a handy little timeline:

  • Sept. 21-Oct. 8 is when ballots will be mailed to every active, registered Vermont voter (if you register to vote between now and the election, the Secretary of State recommends you check with your town/city clerk).
A sample ballot
Credit Vermont Secretary of State, Courtesy
A sample general election ballot for Caledonia County voters.

  • Sept. 21-Oct. 24 is when you should be deciding on who to vote for, filling out that ballot (read the directions!!!), signing the certificate envelope AND mailing it in or dropping it off at your town/city clerk’s office.
  • Oct. 25-Nov. 2 is when, according to USPS, you should NO LONGER MAIL IT in but bring it to your town/city clerk to make sure it arrives on time. As of mid-September, the Vermont Secretary of State’s office said a little more than half of the state’s towns and cities have a drop-off option for ballots.
  • Nov. 3 is when, if you haven’t mailed or dropped off your ballot yet, you can bring it to the polls, all of which will stay open until 7 p.m..

You can still, of course, vote in-person at the polls on Election Day or in your town/city clerk’s office from Sept. 21 to Nov. 2, but if you received a ballot in the mail, you need to bring all those materials with you to do so. If you lose it or forget it, don't worry! You can still vote, but you'll be asked to fill out an affidavit saying you haven't voted already.
If you didn’t receive a ballot in the mail for any reason, you can request one from your town/city clerk in person, online, or by phone, fax, email or mail. USPS recommends doing this at least 15 days before Election Day.

Have questions about voting accessibility? The Vermont Secretary of State's office has a resource page here as well as instructional videos on how to vote in seven different languages:

What's going on with the U.S. Postal Service in Vermont, and will it impact voting by mail?

The short answer is, there’s a lot going on with USPS. Vermont’s Attorney General, for instance, has joined a multi-state lawsuit against the postal service and its reductions in staffing and equipment. And according to American Postal Workers Union Vermont President Omar Fernandez, things like this have been happening here, including a facing machine — which flips mail so it’s facing the right direction — removed from White River Junction two months ago.

But the latest, at least as of mid-September, is that any changes to retail hours, mail processing equipment and facilities, blue collection boxes, and postal worker overtime will not take place until after the election according to the Postmaster General. In addition, USPS has promised to draw on “standby resources” to “satisfy any unforeseen demand.”

A piece of paper saying if you plan to vote by mail, plan ahead
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
The U.S. Postal Service sent out these mailers in early September, asking voters to plan ahead for the general election on Nov. 3.

Fernandez said this time of year is usually the slow period, but now is “the busiest” he’s ever seen in the six years he’s worked for USPS. He assured postal customers if mail goes into the postal system, it’ll “absolutely” come out the other end.

“The mail is sacred to us,” Fernandez said. “We’re going to get the mail where it needs to go.”

It’s helpful to keep in mind that USPS expects election mail to make up less than 2% of all mail between mid-September and Election Day.

Will there be enough poll workers with the COVID-19 risk?

People wondered this during Vermont’s primary election, too, and at least according to the municipal officials Vermont Edition talked to that day, there were PLENTY of poll workers. Down in the tiny town of Landgrove (132 registered voters!), Justice of the Peace Chuck Sweetman said there were six two-people teams (in other words, 9% of the town) volunteering there and competing to work the polls during the busiest voting hours on Aug. 11. 

A woman behind plastic in a wooden walled room
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
In the Franklin County town of Bakersfield, poll worker Linda McCall, left, said she felt comfortable working the Vermont Primary Election in her little bubble, which was built by select board member Josh Goss.

While the Secretary of State’s office hasn’t heard from any municipalities worried about poll worker shortages on Nov. 3, it enacted a directive that allows:

  • Ballots being mailed to every active, registered voter so there will be fewer people going to the polls on Election Day
  • Early processing of ballots to reduce day-of workload
  • Recruiting poll workers from other precincts
How can I make sure my mail-in ballot is received and counted?

You can contact your town/city clerk directly, or you can visit your “My Voter Page” on the Vermont Secretary of State’s website, which will show the date your ballot is received by your town/city clerk.

A ballot, ballot envelope and prepaid envelope on a wood background.
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
In the mail you'll receive a ballot package with these three things inside: your ballot, your ballot envelope and a prepaid envelope. Fill out the ballot, put it inside the ballot envelope (don't forget to fill that out, too!), then put the ballot envelope inside the prepaid envelope.

In order to make sure it is counted, follow the instructions when filling it out:

  • Inside a ballot package, you will find a ballot and two envelopes. One envelope is for the ballot itself. The second envelope is the prepaid mailer that you put the ballot envelope into.
  • After you vote, you put your ballot in the designated ballot envelope. On this envelope, you print your name, write down what town you're in, then sign and date it. (While some states match the signature on the ballot envelope with the one on file, Vermont does NOT). Then you seal that envelope.
  • After you've done this, you put the ballot envelope into that larger prepaid mailer.
  • Mail it/drop it off with time to spare!
How are ballots counted in Vermont, and how long will it take?

The Secretary of State’s office says that about 140 Vermont municipalities, or 80% of the vote, have tabulator machines, while another 106 or so towns count ballots by hand.

Under the SOS’s new directive, city and town clerks are allowed to open certificate envelopes before Nov. 3 and put the ballots either in secure boxes or into the tabulator machines. They can’t be counted before polls close on Election Day, but the SOS expects to have unofficial election results before the end of the night.

Not all states, however, are allowing ballot processing before Election Day. According to a recent Pew analysis, nationwide results could take days or even weeks to be finalized, so be prepared to be patient.

What if I receive a ballot for someone who has since moved, or died?

The Vermont Secretary of State's office says the voter should first contact their town/city clerk. They will then be given instructions to either return the ballot package to their local clerk, or in some cases, the clerk might say to destroy the ballot.

If a person has left a change of address form with their local post office, their ballots are not going to be forwarded. So if a person has moved and registered to vote in their new community, that's where their ballot will come from, because they would now be on that town's active checklist.

Where is my polling place?

Find your town or city on the map below and learn where the polls will be, what time they'll open and what — if any — COVID precautions will be in place. The data comes from the Vermont Secretary of State's office, and if you prefer a spreadsheet, you can see that here.

(On mobile? Click here to see the map)

Who are the candidates in my district?

We've broken down the full XLS spreadsheet of candidates from the Vermont Secretary of State's office. Up first, a spreadsheet of candidates running for statewide offices, including U.S. president and vice president, U.S. representative to Congress, governor, lieutenant governor, state treaurer, secretary of state, auditor of acocunts and attorney general.

Note: If a candidate provided a campaign website to the Secretary of State, it'll be linked to their name.

STATEWIDE OFFICES

Below are county-by-county spreadsheets of who's running for state senator, state representative and high bailiff in each district.

What are candidates for top office saying?

For governor:

For lieutenant governor:

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Scott Milne was scheduled to appear on Vermont Edition Monday, Oct. 26, but he canceled his appearance in an email Friday and declined an invitation to reschedule. Republican candidate for governor Phil Scott was unable to find a date to appear on the program, and Progressive lieutenant governor candidate Cris Ericson did not respond to an invitation to participate.

VPR also couldn't coordinate interviews with Independent candidate for governor and lieutenant governor Wayne Billado III and Independent candidate for governor Erynn Hazlett Whitney.

Keep up with all the latest Election Day 2020 news from VPR, NPR and our collaborative partners here.

Bob Kinzel contributed reporting for this story, and Anna Ste. Marie provided production assistance.

Correction 11:05 a.m. 9/29/2020: You do not have to be 18-years-old to register to vote. You can register to vote if you will be 18 on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet digital producer Elodie Reed @elodie_reed.

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