Honoring Public Service - April through June 2010
Support our Troops - Make Sure Their Votes Count -
February 23, 2010
Honoring Public Service
Over the next few months the Secretary of State’s office will be honoring 775 long-serving appointed and elected local officials from all 14 counties with a Vermont Public Service Award. The purpose of the Vermont Public Service Award program is twofold – it gives our dedicated local officials the recognition they deserve - and, by highlighting the vital role our public servants play in our towns, it will hopefully encourage others to serve. To qualify for the award an individual must have served as an elected or appointed local official for 20 or more years. We will visit each region in Vermont to hold a ceremony and to present certificates of recognition to the qualifying local officials.
I want to give a special thanks to the town clerks and other local officials who have helped make this program successful by identifying the people in their communities who qualify for the award. For more information about the Vermont Public Service Awards, please contact the Secretary of State’s Office at 1-800-439-8683 or visit the website at www.sec.state.vt.us to see the full list of honorees by county.
Honoring the efforts of Vermont’s local officials is an important step toward building stronger communities. Let’s all extend our gratitude for the hard work our local officials do to make our communities and the state of Vermont a better place!
Contact – Ginny Colbert, 802-828-2148 February 23, 2010
Support our Troops – Make Sure Their Votes Count
By Deb Markowitz, Vermont Secretary of State
Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett, who is also a member of the National Guard, understands the importance of ensuring that the ballots of our military and overseas voters can be counted. When she was deployed to Kuwait in 2005 she missed her own race for re-election. And although she received her ballot for that election, it arrived very late. To this day she is unsure whether her vote was ever counted.
Last week the Vermont House made it easier for our military and overseas voters to have their votes count by changing the date of our primary election from mid-September to late August. This change is in response to a new federal law that requires ballots to be sent to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election. By moving our primary date, Vermonters who are serving in remote areas of the world will have the same opportunity to cast a ballot as the rest of us here in Vermont. This change could not have come sooner with as many as 1,500 Vermont National Guard members being deployed to Afghanistan over the course of this year.
Although the federal mandate is new, our efforts to make it easier for our service men and women to vote are not. Indeed, in every legislative session since 2000, my office has proposed that Vermont’s primary be moved to an earlier date to allow enough time to print and prepare ballots so that they can be received and returned by our overseas and military voters by Election Day.
Governor Douglas has said that he does not support this change. He suggests that we should instead implement internet voting or accept ballots for at least two weeks after the election. But neither of these solutions will work.
First, no internet voting system is federally certified as secure and reliable. We already fax or send ballots electronically to military and overseas voters upon request, but these efforts have not been sufficient to ensure timely return of voted ballots from remote locations. Counting ballots received after the election would significantly change how we manage our elections, raising questions about the security of the ballots and finality of the votes. But even more importantly, late counting would deprive our military men and women of the privacy of their vote since few ballots would be received after Election Day. Moreover, United States Justice Department lawyers have indicated that neither of these solutions would exempt Vermont from the requirement that ballots be available for voting at least 45 days before the election – a requirement that can only be met by moving our primary to an earlier date.
Governor Douglas has suggested that we apply for a waiver from the requirements of this new law because changing the primary could help Democrats in the upcoming election. I ask that the governor not play politics with the rights of our military men and women to vote.
I will not request a waiver for voters' rights, especially those voters who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom. We ask the men and women who serve in the military and their families to sacrifice tremendously. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their right to vote. We must ensure that our military men and women have the same opportunity to vote as the rest of us, by moving our primary to the end of August.
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