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ACT NO. 59

(H.460)

Implementing the Federal Help America Vote Act

This act makes changes to Vermont elections law as follows:

* * * Qualification and Registration of Voters; Registration of Voters * * *

Sec. 1. Restricts public access to applications to the statewide voter checklist and the statewide voter registration checklist for the following information: a registered voter’s month and date of birth, motor vehicle operator’s license number, social security number,

and street address that are contained in information housed in the statewide voter checklist.

Secs. 2 and 3. Extends the last day for accepting applications to the checklist from the second Saturday before an election to the second Monday before an election. Requires that town clerks review all applications to the voter checklist. Once approved, information is to be added to the statewide voter checklist. The town clerk is required to notify any applicant who submits an incomplete form. Requires that the municipality’s board of civil authority meet promptly if the clerk doesn’t believe the applicant meets the eligibility requirements.

Sec. 4. Adds the following elements to the voter registration application:

· Physical address or detailed location of a person’s residence.

· Requires that an applicant to the voter checklist provide: a current and valid driver’s license number or nondriver identification number; or if the applicant does not have a driver’s license number, the last four digits of the applicant’s social security number; or if the applicant does not have a driver’s license or SSN, the secretary of state shall issue a unique number to the applicant for voter registration identification.

Sec. 4a. Permits the department of motor vehicles to enter into an agreement with the Social Security Administration to verify information on voter registration applications; however, if the department enters such an agreement, the agreement must be limited to verifying only applications that contain the last four digits of an applicant’s social security number. In addition, the secretary of state is prohibited from giving any information in the nonpublic portion of the statewide list to the federal government.

Sec. 5. Requires that a town clerk provide a sworn affidavit to a voter who claims that he or she registered before the application deadline at the polling place. Requires that it be on a form prepared by the secretary. When an application is incomplete, it permits a municipal clerk to add the name of a voter to the checklist if the voter submitted an application before the deadline to vote and on or before the date of the election the applicant provides the omitted information to the municipal clerk.

Sec. 6. Expands the authority of a town clerk to remove a voter from the checklist when: the clerk receives public notice that the voter has died or when the clerk receives official notice from the department of motor vehicles that the voter has authorized a change of address for voting purposes.

Sec. 7. Authorizes the secretary to create a statewide voter checklist. The checklist is the official list for all elections in the state. Requires that the secretary limit the ability of a municipal clerk to searching the whole list on a “name search” basis and the clerk would only be able to modify his or her municipality’s portion of the list. Reiterates that certain information on the checklist is private. Requires any person who wishes to obtain a copy of the checklist to affirm that he or she will not use it for commercial purposes. Prohibits accessing the nonpublic portions of the list, except for elections purposes.

* * * Party Organization * * *

Secs. 8, 9 and 10. Changes the written notice requirement for the organization of a representative, senatorial, or probate district committee organization from seven to five days.

* * * Nominations; Primary Elections * * *

Sec. 11. Prohibits the filing of petitions before the first Monday in June.

Sec. 12. Requires that a candidate’s consent is due on the date that petitions are due.

* * * Nominations; Nominations by Party Committee * * *

Secs. 13 and 14. Changes the filing requirements for a party committee when a candidate withdraws or dies after a primary election.

Sec. 15. Requires that training provided by the secretary assist elections officers in running elections in conformance with state and federal law.

Sec. 16. Permits the board of civil authority to adopt guidance on how to run the election at the polling place, provided that the guidance is consistent with federal and state law.

Sec. 17. Permits a board of civil authority to allow 16 and 17 year old residents to be elections officials in the district where they reside. Adds language to conform with the assistant town clerks bill passed earlier in the biennium.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Elections Officials * * *

Sec. 18. Requires that the secretary adopt, by rule, a complaint procedure for any violation of state or federal elections law. Aggrieved individuals may appeal the decision of the secretary of state in the county where they reside.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Ballots * * *

Sec. 19. A person nominated for an office by more than one political party must elect the party or parties that the candidate will represent by the second Friday following the primary.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Voting Machines * * *

Sec. 20. Prohibits mechanical voting devices (lever machines), requires electronic voting devices (optical scanners, etc.).

Sec. 21. If a municipality elects to use voting machines, then the municipality must elect to do so at least six months before the next primary or general election.

Sec. 22. Allows the secretary to adopt rules regarding the use of voting machines. These rules shall include:

· Requiring any municipality that has elected to use a voting machine to use a uniform machine approved by the secretary of state.

· Provisions for the security of the machines at all times.

· Requiring that all machines reject ballots with an overvote, and notify the voter that the ballot was spoiled except in the case of early voter absentee ballots.

· Requiring that all machines DO NOT reject undervotes.

Sec. 23. Permits a BCA to vote to open polling places at 5:00 am so that elections officials may process early voter absentee ballots. If elections officials do not count all ballots at the close of polls, then they may treat each remaining ballot as if it were a voter standing in line at the close of the polls.

Sec. 24. This section deletes repetitive language contained in two parts of Title 17.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Warnings, Notices, and Other Voter Information * * *

Sec. 25. Requires additional information to be posted on the notice at the polling place.

Sec. 26. Requires that a town clerk post sample ballots as soon as the ballots are received, and not later than 20 days before a primary or general election, 10 days before a municipal election.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Early or Absentee Voters * * *

Sec. 27. Strikes “official voter information cards.”

Sec. 28. Adds the term “swearing or affirming” to the early voter absentee ballot.

Sec. 29. Requires that first-time voters in a municipality who registered by mail, submit identification before voting. Acceptable identification includes:

· A copy of valid photo identification;

· A copy of a current utility bill;

· A copy of a current bank statement;

· A copy of a government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the current name and address of the voter.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Provisional Voting * * *

Sec. 30. Adds a new subchapter 6A for provisional voting. Provisional voting applies only to elections for federal office. The subchapter allows an individual to vote if the voter claims that he or she submitted registration information before the deadline, but the name does not appear on the checklist. The secretary is to create a provisional ballot envelope that contains voter registration information on the outside of the envelope. The provisional voter then fills out the information on the envelope and the ballot, seals the envelope and deposits the envelope in the provisional ballot bag. The town clerk has two days to determine whether the provisional voter has met all the eligibility requirements. The town clerk then makes a photocopy of the affidavit on the outside of the envelope and mails all envelopes to the secretary of state’s office. The secretary then opens the approved provisional envelopes and counts the ballots, adding them to the statewide count for federal office.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Process of Voting * * *

Sec. 31. Permits a municipality’s board of civil authority to open the polls for voting at 5:00 a.m.

Sec. 32. Requires that first-time voters in a municipality who are voting in person present identification, before being admitted to vote. For acceptable forms of identification see Sec. 2.

Sec. 33. Requires that each polling place in the state, regardless of whether the municipality voted to use machines, possess one voting machine approved by the secretary for the disabled, including the visually disabled.

Sec. 34. Permits a person who needs assistance in casting a ballot to ask either a person of the voter’s choice or two elections officials of different parties to assist in the marking of a ballot.

Sec. 35. Prohibits counting votes before the close of the polls.

Sec. 36. Permits the presiding officer to request the secretary of state for permission to count the votes in a place other than the polling place.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Count and Return of Votes * * *

Sec. 37. Technical changes defining what constitutes “alternative materials” that must be retained within a ballot bag after the close of the polls.

Sec. 38. Requires that the secretary of state adopt rules to determine the intent of a voter when there is a question on the marking of a ballot and when a ballot is spoiled. Permits elections officials to add together candidates that are clearly the same person. Prohibits the tallying of fictitious persons.

* * * Conduct of Elections; Recounts * * *

Sec. 39. Permits the secretary of state to determine the manner by which tally sheets are returned to the secretary and to representative district, senatorial district, and county clerks. Requires that the town make a copy available to the public upon request.

Sec. 40. Adds attorney general to the list of statewide officials that receive an unsigned certificate of election, for use by the official canvassing committee appointed by the general assembly if they so desire.

Sec. 41. Requires that all recounts be done by hand count.

Sec. 42. Places the “public informational meeting” section into the subdivision that contains the requirements for revoting on budget issues.

* * * Presidential Elections; Presidential Primaries * * *

Sec. 43. Requires that town clerks mark the voter’s party choice with a letter code approved by the secretary.

Sec. 44. Prohibits any state official from requiring a person to give E-911 address if that person presents his or her alternate mailing address.

* * * Effective Dates * * *

Sec. 44. Secs. 4 (changes to voter application) and 7 (statewide voter checklist) become effective on January 1, 2004, unless the secretary obtains a waiver from the Federal Elections Commission and files that waiver with Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules in which case these sections become effective on January 1, 2006.

Sec. 30 (access to voting machines by people with disabilities) shall take effect January 1, 2006.

* * * Report * * *

Sec. 45. Requires that the secretary submit a report by January 15, 2004 summarizing the expenditures made to implement the federal help America vote act and this act.