Official: US Supreme Court opinion wrong on Vermont voting

Wilson Ring
Associated Press

The Vermont Secretary of State said Thursday that he’s glad U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh corrected an opinion that mischaracterized Vermont’s voting system. But the corrected opinion still mischaracterizes the changes made to the state’s voting system during the pandemic, he said.

Secretary of State Jim Condos said Thursday that he didn’t know why Kavanaugh chose Vermont as an example in a concurring opinion he wrote when the Supreme Court on Monday sided with Republicans to prevent Wisconsin from counting mailed ballots that are received after Election Day.

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos speaks during a voter registration meeting in this July 8, 2017, file photo.

Kavanaugh’s original opinion said Vermont was one of a number of states that chose not to make changes to “their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots.”

Vermont did not extend the deadline for when early or mail-in ballots have to be in the hands of town and city clerks. To be counted, all Vermont ballots must be delivered to the voter’s town or city clerk by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

But Condos, after being authorized to do so by the Legislature, made significant changes to the state’s election system for this year only so the ballots can be delivered on time while making it as safe as possible to vote during the pandemic.

“Obviously, the Supreme Court never contacted us to find out what we have done, but we believe he simply got it wrong,” Condos, a Democrat, said Thursday.

On Wednesday, Condos sent a letter to the Supreme Court asking that Kavanaugh’s opinion be corrected.

Later Wednesday, Kavanaugh’s opinion was changed to read that Vermont and some other states had decided “not to make changes to their ordinary election-deadline rules.”

“That one word was probably an attempt to simplify the correction, but it doesn’t really solve the overall picture of how he used Vermont in this decision,” Condos said.

While the wording is correct, Condos said the passage still mischaracterized the significant changes the Legislature authorized him to make to the state’s electoral apparatus during the pandemic.

The changes included the mailing of ballots to all active registered voters at the end of September and authorizing town and city clerks to begin processing those ballots ahead of the election.