Commentary: Middlebury's Messy Voter Rolls Suggests a Larger Problem

Vermont’s poorly maintained voter lists are placing the integrity of our 2022 election at risk, as newly uncovered evidence from the 2020 election shows.

For this investigation, the Ethan Allen Institute chose the years 2015-19 because there was a good chance that these students had registered to vote in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and upon graduating, we suspected that they may not have been removed from Middlebury’s voter roll. We gathered Middlebury College’s list of graduating students from 2015-19 and a list of all Middlebury citizens who voted in the 2020 election. After cross-referencing these documents, we found eighteen individuals who graduated in this four-year time period who voted in the 2020 election.

Upon further examination, we discovered that eight of these individuals had voted legally because they had stayed in the Middlebury area after graduation, according to their LinkedIn profiles. But the other ten graduates had left the Middlebury area. Some of them moved across the country, while others returned home to Egypt and Singapore, according to their LinkedIn profiles. While one individual living in California since 2016 was recorded as voting in person in Middlebury, the other nine graduates had absentee ballots mailed in their names.

Five of the nine absentee voters still had their old Middlebury student addresses on file, suggesting that other individuals living near those addresses had mailed in these ballots. The other four absentee voters received ballots at mailing addresses in other states and countries, which could have been mailed in by these graduates or by other individuals at those addresses. Thankfully, these ten votes are not enough to call into question the legitimacy of Middlebury’s 2020 election. However, given the slim margins of some recent Vermont elections, this possibility remains for future elections.

It is important to note that is not a one-off incident. Eleven individuals from Connecticut were struck from Vermont voter rolls in 2018 after they voted in Victory’s 2017 Town Meeting, about 13% of all residents of Victory. And in December 2021, three individuals from the town of Peru tried to vote in a local school election for the town of Windham.

Due to Vermont’s hastily implemented absentee ballot measures in 2020, we will likely never know who cast those nine absentee ballots, or the extent to which mass distribution without signature verification of absentee ballots is problematic. Vermont’s Secretary of State decided our mass absentee balloting experiment (with fewer safeguards that any other state) was a success before the 2020 election concluded, leaving the office unwilling (so far) to look for evidence to the contrary.

The Ethan Allen Institute (EAI) has shared information about these ten individuals to Vermont’s Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Middlebury’s town clerks, while withholding their names from the public to protect their privacy.

We have urged them to be on the lookout for voter irregularities across the state.

Vermont’s electoral security lapses are fixable if steps are taken immediately. Voter rolls in Vermont have not been cleaned in decades. Will they be cleaned and updated in time for absentee ballots to be mailed in September? We encourage our fellow Vermonters to reach out to local and state officials to demand these critical changes. After all, a secure election process earns the confidence of all citizens and forms the bedrock of a stable democracy.


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