I am writing today out of real concern that the validity of our Vermont November General Election has been placed at risk and that the results may not represent the people of Vermont. The decision by the State Legislature to send out ballots to every name on every voter list has placed thousands of ballots in circulation that are duplicates or addressed to people who are not residents of our towns or even our state. I understand the great concern about public safety in an election when the Corona virus is a risk to all. When our state chose to send out post cards to every known resident offering the ability to vote by mail, I praised the effort to contact voters and give them the option of requesting a ballot. When I received cards for 4 people who had not lived in my home for many years, I dutifully destroyed those cards so that unnecessary ballots would not be mailed out. I even contacted my town office but they assured me that simply not returning the cards would be enough.

To my utter dismay, we later received ballots for all 4 people that had not lived in our home for as many as 12 years. Three of these people now live in other states where they are registered to vote. My neighbor received two ballots for himself and one for a family member that doesn’t live with him either. If we can get 6 extra ballots in just two homes, it begs the question of how many excess ballots are out in our communities.

I again called my town office and was assured that no one would misuse the extra ballots because the penalty was too high. I was also assured that the process would catch any fraudulent ballots. But there is no way of knowing who fills out a particular ballot and drops it in a box at the town hall. I contacted the Governor, Lt. Governor, the Attorney General, and the Vermont Secretary of State. The only serious discussion I had was with the Secretary of State’s office and he at least admitted that there is no way to verify the validity of a ballot turned in. None of our elected officials seem concerned that we have enabled people to abuse our system of voting.

I served my country proudly for 26 years as a member of our military. I took an oath to defend and support our Constitution. This means I swore to defend the rights of “We the People.” Despite now being a fully disabled Veteran, I still believe myself to be bound by that oath to defend the Constitution and the rights of all to one vote. This mass distribution of ballots relegates our right to vote to little more than election junk mail. This is worse than sending out thousands of credit card applications blindly. At least those organizations have some ability to determine whether the person filling out the application is who they say they are. We have no checks or balances to allow us to certify the voting process. A system where one ballot is sent to each registered voter that requests it is reasonable. Or maybe as they are doing in some states, sending a copy of your official ID with your vote. But thousands of uncontrolled ballots is a recipe for failure.

I want to assume that most people will, in fact, do the fight thing and return the extra ballots. But in today’s world it really is necessary to “trust but verify.” My right to vote is important to me as I believe it is to most Vermonters. I write this in hope that others will contact our state officials and push for change. Because if we don’t fix it, this can happen again and again. As the Secretary of State’s office informed me, even if the ballot is returned and the residency is challenged, that individual can continue to receive ballots for two more federal elections or for four more years. I encourage everyone to take the time to ask for change.

Larry Barrows

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