Can we get some election law reform up in this ma’?

So it’s three days after the election. And if, for some reason, you wanted to take a look at the Vermont returns, your first thought would be the Secretary of State’s website. Right?

Wrong. The state’s unofficial tally is stuck at 74.91% of all precincts, and has been since early Wednesday morning. The most complete (unofficial) returns can be found on (WCAX has apparently taken down its election-night “dashboard.”)

(Update: Just got a note from WCAX News Director Anson Tebbetts letting us know that you can still find their results online. I’m sorry I incorrectly reported their absence.)

So why is the state’s unofficial count (all counts are unofficial until the Canvassers meet next Tuesday) so sadly incomplete, three days after the fact?

Because, to put it bluntly, our election reporting system is a relic of a pre-electronic age, and our state Legislature has completely failed to bring it up to date.  

If you obsessively followed the returns on Tuesday night, you would have noticed that WCAX was consistently and substantially ahead of the state. This is because WCAX has put together a huge volunteer effort: stationing someone at each precinct, who can get the results and call them in to Channel 3. As for reporting through official channels to the state:

“The town clerks are not legally obligated to report to us” on election night, according to Secretary of State Jim Condos. He continues:

It’s a convoluted system. Local election officials count their ballots that night. The next morning, the town clerks come in and fill out their official vote reports. They mail them to us in prepaid overnight envelopes provided by the state. We expect to have all the reports by [today.]

That’s all the town clerks are legally obligated to do: mail in the returns on Wednesday. What you see on the Elections Division website — the 74.91% complete results — is what was voluntarily called in by local officials on election night. After those calls stopped coming in, the Elections Division had nothing to update its count with.

Today and over the weekend (if necessary), state election workers will tabulate all the official vote reports. And then wait until the Canvassers meet on Tuesday, where the count will be formally accepted. And published.

One week after the election.

Am I the only one who finds this absurd, ridiculous, nonsensical, (checks Thesaurus) ludicrous, harebrained, insane, cockamamie? Is this the kind of thing Vermonters accept because “we’ve always done it this way”?

In an age where Republicans have reinvented traditional ways through the sheer power of Lenore Broughton’s checkbook, and Democrats have reinvented traditional ways by building a strongly-staffed year-round political operation, can we please reinvent the way we count and report the vote?

“Election night reporting isn’t about me or the clerks,” Condos told GMD. “It’s about serving our constituents, the voters, the media, and the parties.”

Damn straight. Count me among the constituents who wants better service next time around.  House and Senate, watchin’ you.


6 thoughts on “Can we get some election law reform up in this ma’?

  1. Just moments ago I was looking at the state’s website and I realized how shockingly ancient it appears. At the bottom of the page it says C2004.

    8 years is more than two lifetimes in internet years…

  2. I would very much like to be a part of solving these and other problems with our elections. I hope that it is a collaborative process, where town clerks are part of the discussion and buy in to the reforms.

    As we prepare for a potential Senate recount in Franklin I pray that the folks who ROLLED their f-ing ballots in a couple of towns after the primary election have (AHEM) abandoned this practice. Counting curly ballots is not fun.

  3. I don’t think that requirements like electronically filing the results or standards for the handling of ballots after they have been counted should require additional funding.

    When we make Fletcher buy some new-fangled e-voting contraption then I’ll make sure we don’t stick you with the bill… or maybe I will… but just Fletcher. I kid.

  4. My concern is expanding the e-voting mandate to towns with fewer than 1000 voters.  I can imagine a scenario where you damned elitists in Mount Peculiar decide that the best way to implement e-filing would be an additional requirement for machines.

    And don’t get me started on the security issues with e-voting…

  5. If  the Secretary of State is not allowed to have access to the code running on e-vote machines, to be analyzed and duplicated, then the e-vote machines are not trustworthy.

    Many SoSs across America have signed contracts that forbid them from accessing the computer code, the unscrupulous companies cite ‘trade secrets’ or some such nonsense.  The code can do anything, such as function normally every day of the week except election day when it changes vote counts, for example.

    Even optical scanners can be rigged – if no one is allowed to test the code.

    We should not use speeding up vote counting as an excuse to hand our votes over to black box voting machine companies whose CEOs have pledged to rig the elections for Republicans.

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