Clerks across eight counties are reporting that the Vermont Democratic Party submitted unauthorized absentee ballot requests for the general election — an illegal act under Vermont election laws.
While the Secretary of State’s office doesn’t keep a record of unauthorized ballot requests, Watchdog’s calls to 17 town clerks found that the VDP made 115 requests for absentee ballots without voters’ approval.
The number of unauthorized requests may be much higher since Vermont has 237 towns and nine cities, and because unauthorized requests are discovered only when voters report the suspicious activity to local clerks.
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As reported by Vermont Watchdog, multiple campaigns requested absentee ballots for voters without permission. Third parties, such as political campaigns, are allowed to request absentee ballots, but only with voters’ approval.
Watchdog’s inquiry to seven town clerks in Franklin County uncovered 54 unauthorized requests. In reaching out to 11 municipalities in Rutland County, Watchdog uncovered 36 unauthorized requests.
Ed Ballantyne, the VDP’s county chair for Franklin, refused Watchdog’s request for an interview. Julian Fenn, the VDP’s regional field organizer for Rutland, didn’t return multiple requests for an interview.
Chris Larson, county chair for Rutland County, told Watchdog his local field staff mistakenly requested unauthorized ballots because of a volunteer error in which two lists got mixed up. “We’re making changes to the process to insure an error like this doesn’t happen again,” Larson told Watchdog.
In three towns in Windham County — Marlboro, Jamaica and Grafton — the VDP made 15 unauthorized absentee ballot requests, out of 16 total requests.
Will Senning, director of elections at the Secretary of State’s office, told Watchdog he is aware of about 30 incidents of unauthorized requests made by the Vermont Democratic Party.