Montpelier, VT — Today, the Vermont House of Representatives, on a strong tri-partisan vote (119-30), gave initial support to a bill (S.15) that expands universal vote-by-mail to all general elections going forward. The House will take a final vote tomorrow, and the bill will then be sent to the Senate to consider the House’s amendments.

“Making universally-mailed ballots a permanent feature of Vermont general elections will help increase access and options for all voters,” said Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV). “VCV and the environmental community identified S.15 as one of our key priorities for this year, because we recognize that a healthy democracy is essential for a healthy environment.”

Vote-by-mail had a profound impact on Vermont’s democratic participation in the 2020 election, with nearly 45,000 more votes cast in the general election than in any election in the state’s history. In that election, 73% of the votes cast were by absentee ballot. 

Shelden Goodwin, Political Outreach Associate at VCV, noted that VCV will continue advocating for the preservation of all avenues of voter participation, whether that’s safe in-person voting, through the mail, or using convenient drop boxes. “The bottom line is we want Vermonters to have as many ways as possible to vote, to exercise their basic rights and civic duty,” she said. “Vote-by-mail is an important part of this equation.”

A poll conducted in February by the independent firm Lincoln Park Strategies found that 68 percent of Vermont voters wanted to keep mail-in voting, while just 29 percent opposed it. Voters appreciated the additional time to research candidates and the ability to take their time filling in their ballot and make thoughtful decisions when voting from the comfort of their home.

In addition to expanding vote-by-mail, Vermont’s new legislation provides a way for voters to “cure” defective ballots after mailing them in. A common example is when a voter fails to sign the inner security envelope when returning their ballot. S.15 provides remedies to help ensure a voter can fix a defective ballot and make sure their vote counts.

“In a tumultuous year when preserving personal and community health was of paramount concern, vote-by-mail ensured that Vermont’s 2020 election carried on safely, simply, and securely,” added Goodwin. “We are pleased to see this successful policy made permanent for all general elections going forward.”