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NO. 47. AN ACT RELATING TO VOTER REGISTRATION.

(S.189)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 17 V.S.A. 2103(39)-(42) are added to read:

(39) "Motor vehicle driver’s license" means any personal identification document issued by the department of motor vehicles under Title 23.

(40) "Secretary" means the secretary of state. The secretary of state shall be the chief state election official for purposes of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

(41) "Voter registration agency" or "agency" means all state offices that provide public assistance, all state offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities, any federal and nongovernmental offices that have agreed to be designated by the secretary as a voter registration agency and any state or local agency designated by the secretary as a voter registration agency. State and local agencies designated by the secretary may include: the departments of taxes and unemployment compensation, and offices that provide services to persons with disabilities other than those that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities.

(42) "Voter registration application form," "application form," or "form" mean the voter registration application form or the voter registration application portion of a motor vehicle driver’s license application approved by the secretary of state under sections 2145 and 2145a of this title.

Sec. 2. 17 V.S.A. 2144 is amended to read:

2144. DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS

(a) The board shall meet at the time and place appointed and remain in session a reasonable time. It may recess or adjourn from day to day, but applications for persons' names to be placed on the checklist shall not be accepted after 12:00 noon on the second Saturday preceding the day of the election. The town clerk's office shall be kept open on the second Saturday preceding the day of the election from no later than 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon, for the purpose of receiving applications for addition to the checklist. For purposes of this subsection, a mail application or an application submitted to thedepartment of motor vehicles in connection with a motor vehicle driver’s license or an application accepted by a voter registration agency shall be considered to have met the filing deadline established by this subsection if the application is postmarked, submitted or accepted, as the case may be, by 12:00 noon of the second Saturday preceding the day of the election.

(b) If a person is not eligible to register prior to the second Saturday before the day of election, but expects to be eligible on or before election day, he or she may file with the town clerk a written notice of intention to apply for addition of his or her name to the checklist. The notice shall be filed prior to noon of the second Saturday preceding the day of election, and the board of civil authority shall then accept the person's application at any time before the close of the polls on election day, and act upon the application forthwith.

(c) If a person is not eligible to register prior to the second Saturday before the day of the election, and has submitted a written notice of intent to apply in accord with subsection (b) *[above]* of this section, the clerk shall, upon application, allow the applicant to vote absentee. If the application is approved and the name added to the checklist prior to the close of the polls on election day, the absentee ballots cast by that voter shall be treated as other valid absentee ballots.

(d) In the case of annual meetings and towns that start their annual meetings on any day preceding the first Tuesday in March as authorized in section 2640(b) of this title, the "day of election" shall be the first Tuesday in March.

Sec. 3. 17 V.S.A. 2144a is added to read:

2144a. REGISTRATION

A person who desires to register to vote may apply in any of the following ways:

(1) Simultaneously with his or her application for, or renewal of, a motor vehicle driver’s license as provided in section 2145a of this title.

(2) By completing a voter registration application at a voter registration agency.

(3) By delivering, during regular hours, or mailing a completed application form to the office of the clerk of the town in which the applicant claims to be a resident.

Sec. 4. 17 V.S.A. 2145 is amended to read:

2145. *[APPLICATIONS]* APPLICATION FORMS

*[(a) A person who desires to register to vote in an election shall during regular hours, file an application in the office of the clerk of the town in which he claims to be a resident.]* *[The application shall be in four copies and under oath or affirmation, self-administered, certifying the facts which establish the applicant's eligibility to vote. Three copies shall be forwarded to the town clerk of the applicant's town of residence; the fourth copy shall be retained by the applicant. The application shall be in substantially the following form:]*

*[APPLICATION FOR ADDITION TO CHECKLIST]*

*[..................................................................................]*

*[(Last Name)]* *[(First Name)]* *[ (Middle Initial)]*

*[To the Honorable Board of Civil Authority:]*

*[I hereby make application to have my name added to the checklist of the Town or City of..............................]*

*[I am a citizen of the United States and a resident of Vermont;]*

*[My principal dwelling place is at....................................................]*

*[(No.) (Street)]*

*[.......................................]*

*[(Town/City)]*

*[I was born on .................................................... at ..................................................]*

*[(Month/Day/Year) (Town or City) (State or Country)]*

*[I was naturalized as a United States citizen on......................]*

*[(Month/Day/Year)]*

*[at ...............................]*

*[(Town or City) (State)]*

*[I have taken the Freeman's Oath since becoming a resident of Vermont.]*

*[The last address at which I was registered to vote, if any, was ......................................., and I authorize my name]*

*[(No.)]* *[(Street)]* *[(Town/City)]* *[(State)]*

*[to be removed from the list of registered voters there or in any other place.]*

*[I HEREBY SWEAR, OR AFFIRM, UNDER PENALTY OF $5,000.00 FINE, OR IMPRISONMENT FOR NOT MORE THAN ONE YEAR, OR BOTH, THAT THE STATEMENTS MADE BY ME IN THIS APPLICATION ARE TRUE.]*

*[...................... ]* *[..............................]*

*[(Date)]* *[Signature of Applicant]*

*[..............................]*

*[Mailing Address]*

*[For Town Clerk's Use]*

*[At a meeting of the Board of Civil Authority held on.........................]*

(date)

*[for the purpose of revising checklists, the above named was (not) added to the checklist.]*

*[Attest:............................]*

*[(Town/City Clerk)]*

*[The usual polling place at which you may vote is located at.......................................]*

*[(b) The application form shall also contain a space for a person administering the freeman's oath to another to execute the written notification required by section 2124 of this title. The freeman's oath shall appear on the form.]*

(a) The voter registration application shall be in the form approved by the federal election commission or by the secretary of state. The application form approved by the secretary shall include:

(1) A statement informing the applicant of the requirements for voter eligibility set forth in section 2121 of this title and space for the applicant to provide the information necessary for the board of civil authority to determine eligibility, including the applicant’s town of residence, street address and, if the applicant’s mailing address is different from his or her street address, the mailing address.

(2) An attestation by the applicant that he or she satisfies all the voter eligibility requirements. The attestation shall be signed by the applicant under penalty of perjury.

(3) The voter’s oath and a space for a person administering the voter’s oath to another to execute the written notification required by section 2124 of this title.

(4) Space for documentation of the board of civil authority’s action on the application.

(5) The following statements:

"If you were provided with this form when you applied for, or renewed, a motor vehicle driver’s license or were provided with this application form by a voter registration agency, you may decline to register. If you decline to register, your failure to register will remain confidential and will be used only for voter registration purposes."

"If you are submitting this application in connection with a motor vehicle driver’s license application, or renewal, or through a voter registration agency, the office through which you submitted this application will remain confidential and will be used only for voter registration purposes."

(b) Except for forms included as part of a department of motor vehicles license application, the registration application form shall be in four copies. One copy shall be retained by the applicant; three copies shall be forwarded to the town clerk. In the case of applications received at voter registration agencies, three copies shall be forwarded to the secretary of state who shall forward the copies to the town clerk of the applicant’s town of residence. In the case of forms included as part of a department of motor vehicles license application, the form shall be a one-part form which shall be forwarded to the secretary of state who shall forward the form to the town clerk of the applicant’s town of residence.

(c) A board of civil authority or town clerk may not require a person to complete any form other than that *[provided in subsections (a) and (b)]* approved under subsection (a) of this section or section 2145a of this title; nor may the board of civil authority require all applicants or any particular class or group of applicants to appear personally before a meeting of the board or routinely or as a matter of policy require applicants to submit additional information to verify or otherwise support the information contained in the application form.

(d) When the board of civil authority acts on an application to add a name to thechecklist, it shall notify the applicant by returning one copy of the completed application to the applicant and shall send one copy of the completed application to the town in which the applicant was last registered to vote, whether within or without the state of Vermont, before adding the applicant's name and mailing address to the checklist. The original application shall be filed in the office of the town clerk.

(e) The secretary of state shall provide each town clerk and voter registration agency with a sufficient number of *[the]* forms *[provided in subsection (a) of this section,]* at state expense.

(f) A person who makes a false statement in completing *[the form provided in subsection (a) of this section]* a voter registration application form or the voter registration portion of an application for a motor vehicle driver’s license knowing the statement to be false shall be *[fined not more than $5,000.00 or imprisoned for not more than one year or both]* subject to the penalties of perjury as provided in 13 V.S.A. 2901.

(g) A voter who moves from one address in a town in which *[he]* that voter is registered to another address in the same town, or whose name has been changed, shall not be required to reapply as provided in this section, but shall notify the town clerk of his or her new name or address, unless such information has been provided to the department of motor vehicles or a voter registration agency, so that *[his]* the voter’s name may be changed or transferred, if necessary, to the proper subdivision of the checklist. *[Failure to provide this notice, standing alone, shall not be grounds for removal from the checklist.]* The voter registration application form may be used to notify the clerk or the board that the voter has changed his or her name or address.

Sec. 5. 17 V.S.A. 2145a is added to read:

2145a. REGISTRATIONS AT THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES

(a) An application for, or renewal of, a motor vehicle driver’s license shall serve as a simultaneous application to register to vote unless the applicant declines to sign the voter registration portion of the application.

(b) The voter registration portion of the motor vehicle driver’s license application shall provide and request the information required to be provided under section 2145 of thistitle and shall be in the form approved by the secretary of state.

(c) An application for voter registration under this section shall update any previous voter registration by the applicant. Any change of address form submitted to the department of motor vehicles in connection with an application for a motor vehicle driver’s license shall serve to update voter registration information previously provided by the voter, unless the voter states on the form that the change of address is not for voter registration purposes.

(d) The department of motor vehicles shall transmit voter registration applications received under this section to the secretary of state not later than 10 days after the date the application was accepted by the department. In the case of a voter registration application accepted within five days before the checklist is closed under section 2144 of this title for a primary or general election, the application shall be transmitted to the secretary of state not later than five days after the date of acceptance.

(e) The secretary shall promptly transmit applications received under this section to the clerks of the appropriate municipalities.

Sec. 6. 17 V.S.A. 2145b is added to read:

2145b. VOTER REGISTRATION AGENCIES

(a) Each voter registration agency shall:

(1) Distribute voter registration application forms approved under section 2145 of this title.

(2) Assist applicants in completing voter registration application forms, unless the applicant refuses such assistance.

(3) Accept completed voter registration applications and transmit completed applications to the secretary of state not later than 10 days after the date of acceptance. In the case of an application accepted within five days before the checklist is closed under section 2144 of this title for a primary or general election, the application shall be transmitted to the secretary of state not later than five days after the date of acceptance.

(b) The secretary shall promptly transmit applications received under this section to the clerks of the appropriate municipalities.

(c) A voter registration agency shall provide each applicant who does not decline to register to vote the same degree of assistance with regard to the completion of the voter registration application that the office provides with regard to the completion of its own forms, unless the applicant refuses such assistance. If an agency provides services to a person with a disability at the person’s home, the agency shall provide the services described in subsection (a) of this section at the person’s home.

(d) A voter registration agency that provides services or assistance in addition to conducting voter registration shall distribute a voter registration application with each application for the services or assistance provided by the agency, and with each recertification, renewal or change of address form relating to those services or assistance. In addition to the voter registration application form, the agency shall distribute a separate form that includes the following:

(1) The question, "If you are not registered to vote where you live now, would you like to apply to register to vote here today?"

(2) In the case of an agency that provides public assistance, the statement, "Applying to register or declining to register to vote will not affect the amount of assistance that you will be provided by this agency."

(3) Boxes for the applicant to check to indicate whether the applicant would like to register or declines to register to vote, together with the statement, "IF YOU DO NOT CHECK EITHER BOX, YOU WILL BE CONSIDERED TO HAVE DECIDED NOT TO REGISTER TO VOTE AT THIS TIME."

(4) The statement, "If you would like help in filling out the voter registration application form, we will help you. The decision whether to seek or accept help is yours. You may fill out the application form in private."

(5) The statement, "If you believe that someone has interfered with your right to register or to decline to register to vote, you may file a complaint with the secretary of state (secretary of state’s office address and telephone number)."

Sec. 7. 17 V.S.A. 2146(c) is added to read:

(c) If the notice required under subsection (b) of this section is returned undelivered,the board of civil authority shall proceed to remove the person’s name from the checklist in the manner set forth in section 2150 of this title.

Sec. 8. 17 V.S.A. 2149 is amended to read:

2149. CONCLUSIVENESS OF LIST

(a) A person shall not vote at an election unless his or her name is on the checklist applicable to the municipality, but the checklist may be amended and corrected for such election as provided in this title. The eligibility of a person to vote shall not be challenged on the day of election if the person's name is on the checklist, except as provided in section 2564 of this title.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section:

(1) If the voter registration records indicate that a voter has moved from an address in the area covered by the polling place, the voter shall be permitted to vote at that polling place if the voter makes an oral or written affirmation that he or she continues to reside in the area covered by that polling place. The affirmation authorized by this subdivision shall be made at the polling place before an election official.

(2) If a voter who failed to return notice sent pursuant to section 2150 of this title has moved from an address in the area covered by one polling place to an address in an area covered by a different polling place within the same municipality, the voter shall upon oral or written confirmation, be permitted to correct the voting records and vote in the current election at the appropriate polling place. The affirmation authorized by this subdivision shall be made at the appropriate polling place before an election official.

Sec. 9. 17 V.S.A. 2150 is amended to read:

2150. REMOVING NAMES FROM CHECKLIST

(a) When a voter from one town becomes a resident of another town and is placed on the checklist there, the clerk shall send one copy of the voter registration application form *[prescribed in section 2145 of this title]* or other official notice to the clerk of the town where the voter was formerly a resident, and that clerk shall strike the voter's name from the checklist of that town. Likewise, when a town clerk receives a copy of the death certificate of a voter, the clerk shall strike the voter's name from the checklist. A townclerk shall also strike from the checklist the name of any voter who files a written request that his or her name be stricken*[; the town clerk shall preserve such a written request until after two general elections have been held following the date of filing]*.

(b) The board of civil authority at any time may consider the eligibility of persons on the checklist whom *[they believe]* the board believes may be deceased, may have moved from the municipality or may be registered in another place and may remove names of persons no longer qualified to vote. However, *[it]* the board shall not remove any name from the checklist except in accordance with the procedures in subsection (d) of this section and any systematic program for removing names from the checklist shall be completed at least 90 days before an election.

(c) In addition to any actions it takes under subsections (a) and (b) of this section, by September 15 of each odd-numbered year the board of civil authority shall review the most recent checklist name by name and consider, for each person whose name appears on the checklist, whether that person is still qualified to vote. In every case where the board of civil authority is unable to determine under subdivisions (1) and (2) of subsection (d) of this section that a person is still qualified to vote, the board of civil authority shall send a written notice to the person and take appropriate action as provided in subdivisions (3) through (5) of subsection (d) of this section. The intent is that when this process is completed there will have been some confirmation or indication of continued eligibility for each person whose name remains on the updated checklist.

(d) Except as provided in subsection (a) of this section, a board of civil authority shall only remove a name from the checklist in accordance with the following procedure:

(1) If the board of civil authority is satisfied that a voter whose eligibility is being considered is still qualified to vote in the municipality, the voter's name shall remain on the checklist, and no further action shall be taken.

(2) If the board of civil authority does not immediately know that the voter is still qualified to vote in the municipality, the board shall attempt to determine with certainty what the true status of the voter's eligibility is. The board of civil authority may consider and rely upon official and unofficial public records and documents, including but notlimited to, telephone directories, city directories, newspapers, death certificates, tax records *[and]*, any checklist or checklists showing persons who voted in any election within the last four years. The board of civil authority may also designate one or more persons to attempt to contact the voter personally. Any voter whom the board of civil authority finds through such inquiry to be eligible to remain on the checklist shall be retained without further action being taken. The name of any voter proven to be deceased shall be removed from the checklist.

(3) If after conducting its inquiry the board of civil authority is unable to locate a voter whose name is on the checklist, or if the inquiry reveals facts indicating that the voter may no longer be eligible to vote in the municipality *[or has not voted in any election within the last four years]*, the board of civil authority shall send a written notice to the voter. The notice shall be sent by first class mail to the most recent known address of the voter*[, notifying the voter that, unless the voter demonstrates current eligibility to vote in the municipality, the voter's name shall be removed from the checklist on or after a date specified in the notice, which date shall be at least 30 days after the date the notice is mailed]* asking the voter to verify his or her current eligibility to vote in the municipality. The notice shall be sent with "address correction requested." Enclosed with the notice shall be a *[form]* postage paid pre-addressed return card on which the voter may reply, either setting forth the voter's current place of residence as the municipality in question and requesting that the voter's name be retained upon the checklist, or alternatively consenting to the removal of the voter's name. *[If the voter fails to return the form within 30 days, a second notice including the same information and form as the first shall be sent by mail to the corrected address of the voter. Failure to return the second form within 14 days shall result in the removal of the voter's name from the checklist. If the first notice is undeliverable, a second notice need not be sent.]* The notice required by this subsection shall also include the following:

(A) A statement informing the voter that if the voter has not changed his or her residence, or if the voter has changed his or her residence but the change was within the area covered by the checklist, the voter should return the card to the town clerk’s officeon or before the date upon which the checklist is closed under section 2144 of this title. The statement shall also inform the voter that if he or she fails to return the card as provided in this subdivision, affirmation of the voter’s address shall be required before the voter is permitted to vote.

(B) Information concerning how the voter can continue to be eligible to vote if the voter has changed his or her residence to a place outside the area covered by the checklist.

(4) If *[(A)]* the voter *[consents to removal of the voter's name from the checklist, or]* *[(B) all diligent efforts to ascertain the current residence of the voter have failed, or (C), the voter has not voted in any election within the last four years and has not demonstrated current eligibility to vote in the municipality, or (D) the form sent to the voter as provided above is not returned within 30 days]* confirms in writing that the voter has changed his or her residence to a place outside the area covered by the checklist, the board of civil authority shall remove the voter's name from the checklist.

(5) In the case of voters who failed to respond to the notice sent pursuant to subdivision (3) of this subsection, the board of civil authority shall remove the voter’s name from the checklist on the day after the second general election following the date of such notice, if the voter has not voted or appeared to vote in an election since the notice was sent or has not otherwise demonstrated his or her eligibility to remain on the checklist.

(6) *[However,]* Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (5) of this subsection, if at any *[subsequent]* time subsequent to removal of a person’s name from the checklist, the board determines that the person was still qualified to vote and that the voter's name should not have been removed, the board shall add the person's name to the checklist as provided in section 2147 of this title. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed, so that if there is any reasonable doubt whether a person's name should have been removed from the checklist the person shall have the right to have the person's name immediately returned to the checklist.

*[(5)]*(7) The board of civil authority shall keep detailed records of its proceedingsunder this *[section]* subchapter for at least two years. These records, except records relating to a person’s decision not to register to vote or to the identity of the voter registration agency through which any particular voter registered, shall be public records and shall be available for inspection and copying at actual cost. The records shall include: (A) in the case of each name removed from the checklist, a clear statement of the reason or reasons for which the name was removed, *[and]* (B) in the case of the updating of the checklist required by subsection (c) of this section, the working copy or copies of the checklist used in the name by name review conducted to ascertain continued eligibility to vote, (C) the total number of new registrations occurring during the period between general elections, (D) the total number of persons removed from the checklist during the period between general elections, and (E) lists of the names and addresses of all persons to whom notices were sent under this subsection, and information concerning whether or not each person to whom a notice was sent responded to the notice as of the date that inspection of the records is made. A letter certifying compliance with this section shall be filed with the secretary of state by September 20 of each odd-numbered year. Upon request of any superior or district judge or upon request of the secretary of state the town clerk shall forward a certified copy of the records of checklist maintenance.

Sec. 10. 17 V.S.A. 2124 is amended to read:

2124. *[FREEMAN'S]* VOTER’S OATH; HOW ADMINISTERED

(a) The *[freeman's]* voter’s oath may be administered within the state of Vermont by any person authorized by the law of this state to administer oaths, by any member of a board of civil authority, or any presiding officer.

(b) A military service or other absentee voter may also be administered the *[freeman's]* voter’s oath, within or without the state of Vermont, by any commissioned officer of the military service or by any other person qualified to administer oaths, within or without the United States, by the laws of the place in which the oath is administered. The person administering the oath shall subscribe his or her name and rank or title. Neither a seal nor the place where the oath is administered shall be required.

(c) A person who administers the *[freeman's]* voter’s oath to another shall forthwith signthe appropriate place on the application or sign some other written notification giving the person's name and the date the oath was administered. *[The applicant shall be responsible for delivery of the completed application to the town clerk]*.

(d) The town clerk shall keep the completed applications for addition to the checklist. If the written notification that a person has taken the oath is submitted separately from the application, it shall be filed along with the application. The town clerk shall verify, upon request, that a voter has been given the oath.

Sec. 11. GENERAL AMENDMENT

The term "freeman’s oath" is amended to read "voter’s oath" wherever that term appears in Title 17 and any other title of the Vermont Statutes Annotated.

Sec. 12. INFORMATIONAL PAMPHLET

The secretary of state shall prepare an informational pamphlet which clearly explains the procedures and requirements for voter registration and purging of checklists imposed by this act. The secretary shall distribute this pamphlet to department of motor vehicles agencies, voter registration agencies and town clerks.

Approved: June 19, 1997