S.348 – AN ACT RELATING TO TEMPORARY ELECTION PROCEDURES IN THE YEAR 2020, BENNING AMENDMENT
in the State Senate on June 3, 2020 by a vote of
Purpose: The underlying bill, S.348, would remove the Governor from the decision making process of how to conduct elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, clearing the way to allow for a process in which “live” absentee ballots would be mailed to all registered voters on the statewide checklist, regardless of a request (roughly 500,000 ballots). The purpose of the Benning Amendment is to, under these circumstances, discourage the practice of “ballot harvesting,” a controversial practice in which campaign operatives and/or activists collect ballots from voters, often resulting in undo influence over voters, fraudulent filling out of ballots, and destruction of ballots. The key language in the amendment reads, “An early voter absentee ballot may be returned only by the voter; the justices of the peace who delivered the ballot, if applicable; or an authorized family member or caregiver acting in the voter’s behalf,” as well as defining criminal penalties if violated and mandates a civil investigation if there is reason to suspect this kind of fraud is occurring.
Analysis: Mailing live ballots to 500,000 addresses for an election in which roughly 300,000 Vermonters are expected to vote will create a situation where 200,000 unclaimed/unwanted ballots are in circulation for anyone to collect, fraudulently fill out, and submit.
Those voting YES on the bill believe that with the unprecedented action in Vermont of mailing ballots to voters who did not request them, knowing that tens of thousands of names and addresses on the statewide voter checklist are invalid, people having died or moved away, and examples of “ballot harvesting” fraud occurring in other states, specific safeguards need to be put in place to prevent this from happening in Vermont.
Those voting NO argue “ballot harvesting” should not be prohibited in Vermont, and the practice will not lead to fraud.
Senate Journal, Tuesday, June 3, 2020. “…Thereupon, the third recommendation of amendment was disagreed to on a roll call, Yeas 5, Nays 24. (Read the Journal, p. 682-684)”
Related: Roll Call! Senate Removes Governor from “All-Mail Election” Decision, 21-7 (2020)
How They Voted
(Click on Your Senator’s Name to Send an Email)
Timothy Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) – NO
Becca Balint (D-Windham) – NO
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – NO
Joseph Benning (R-Caledonia) – YES
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – NO
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – YES
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – NO
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – NO
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – YES
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – NO
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – NO
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – NO
Debbie Ingram (D-Chittendent) – NO
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – NO
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – NO
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – NO
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – NO
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) – NO
James McNeil (R-Rutland) – YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – NO
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – YES
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – NO
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – NO
Anthony Pollina (P/D/W-Washington) – NO
John Rodgers (D-Essex-Orleans) – ABSENT
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – NO
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – NO
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – NO
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – NO
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