Download this document in MS Word 97 format

NO. 6. AN ACT RELATING TO EARLY VOTER ABSENTEE BALLOTS.

(H.471)

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

Sec. 1. 17 V.S.A. § 2103 is amended to read:

§ 2103. DEFINITIONS

As used in this title, unless the context or a specific definition requires a different reading:

(1) *["Absent voter"]* "Early or absentee voter" means *[both a civilian absentee voter and a military service absentee voter]* any voter of the state who has requested an early voter absentee ballot as provided in subchapter 6 of chapter 51 of this title.

* * *

(8) *["Civilian absentee voter" at any Australian ballot election means a voter of the state who, by reason of illness, injury, physical disability, religious principle, or necessary absence from his town of residence during the hours the polls are open, expects to be unable to attend in person at the polling place.

]*

* * *

Sec. 2. 17 V.S.A. § 2494 is amended to read:

§ 2494. CONSTRUCTION WITH OTHER LAWS

Except as this subchapter affects the method of registering votes and ascertaining the result, the laws of this state pertaining to elections shall be applicable. The laws pertaining to *[absent]* early or absentee voters shall in no way be affected by this subchapter, and *[absentee]* votes cast by early or absentee voters shall be counted with votes registered on voting machines.

Sec. 3. 17 V.S.A. § 2531 is amended to read:

§ 2531. APPLICATION FOR *[ABSENT]* EARLY VOTER ABSENTEE BALLOT

(a) A voter who expects to be an *[absent]* early or absentee voter, or an authorized person on behalf of such voter, may apply for an *[absent]* early voter absentee ballot until 5:00 p.m. or the closing of the town clerk’s office on the day preceding the election*[, or an authorized person on behalf of the absent voter may apply for an absent voter ballot not later than 12:00 noon on the day preceding the election]*.

(b) All applications shall be filed with the town clerk of the town in which the *[absent]* early or absentee voter is registered to vote. The town clerk shall file written applications and memoranda of verbal applications in his or her office, and shall retain the applications and memoranda for 90 days following the election, at which time they may be destroyed.

(c) Voting by early voter absentee ballot shall be allowed only in elections using the Australian ballot system.

Sec. 4. 17 V.S.A. § 2532 is amended to read:

§ 2532. APPLICATIONS; FORM

(a) An *[absent]* early or absentee voter, or an authorized family member or health care provider acting in the voter’s behalf, may apply for an *[absent]* early voter absentee ballot by telephone, in person, or in writing. "Family member’’ here means a person’s spouse, children, brothers, sisters, parents, spouse’s parents, grandparents, and spouse’s grandparents. Any other authorized person may apply in writing or in person. The application shall be in substantially the following form:

REQUEST FOR EARLY VOTER ABSENTEE *[VOTER]* BALLOT

Name of early or absentee voter: ____________________________________

Current address: _________________________________________________

Residence (if different): ___________________________________________

If applicant is other than early or absentee voter:

Name of applicant: _____________________________________________

Address of applicant: ___________________________________________

Relationship to early or absentee voter: _____________________________

Date: _____________ Signature: ______________________________

If the application is made by telephone or in writing, the information supplied must be in substantial conformance with the information requested on this form.

(b) A person temporarily residing in a foreign country who is eligible to register to vote in this state, or a military service absentee voter who is eligible to register to vote in this state, may apply for early voter absentee ballots in the same manner and within the same time limits that apply for other *[absent]* early or absentee voters. An official federal postcard application shall suffice as a simultaneous request for an application for addition to the checklist and for an early voter absentee ballot, when properly submitted. Any other person also may make a simultaneous request for an application for addition to the checklist and for an early voter absentee ballot. The provisions of this section shall apply to anyone who is not eligible to register prior to the third Saturday before the day of election, but expects to be eligible on or before election day.

(c) If the request is received by the town clerk not later than 17 days before the election, the town clerk shall mail a blank application for addition to the checklist, together with a full set of early voter absentee ballots, to the person who has applied for early voter absentee ballots. All such applications for addition to the checklist which are returned to the town clerk before the close of the polls on election day shall be considered and acted upon by the board of civil authority before the ballots are counted. If the application is approved and the name added to the checklist, the early voter absentee ballots cast by that voter shall be treated as other valid early voter absentee ballots.

(d) An application for an *[absent]* early voter absentee ballot shall be valid for only one election, unless specific request is made by an *[absent]* early or absentee voter that the application be valid for both a primary election, excluding a presidential primary, and the general election next following, as long as both ballots are to be mailed to the same address.

(e) A person residing in a state institution may apply for early voter absentee ballots in the same manner and within the same time limits that apply for other *[absent]* early or absentee voters.

(f) The town clerk may, upon application, issue a duplicate *[absent]* early voter absentee ballot if the original ballot is not received by the voter within a reasonable period of time after mailing. The application may be made by a person entitled to apply for an *[absent]* early voter absentee ballot under subsection (a) of this section and shall be accompanied by a sworn statement affirming that the voter has not received the original ballot. If a duplicate *[absent]* early voter absentee ballot is issued and both the duplicate and original *[absent]* early voter *[ballot]* absentee ballots are received before the close of the polls on election day, the ballot with the *[earliest]* earlier postmark shall be counted.

Sec. 5. 17 V.S.A. § 2534 is amended to read:

§ 2534. LIST OF *[ABSENT]* EARLY OR ABSENTEE VOTERS

Upon receipt of the valid applications the town clerk shall make a list of the *[absent]* early or absentee voters. The list shall include each *[absent]* voter’s name and address. A copy of the list shall be *[posted]* available upon request at the town clerk’s office and, on election day, in each polling place in the town *[upon the opening of the polls and shall remain posted until all votes are counted]*.

Sec. 6. 17 V.S.A. § 2536 is amended to read:

§ 2536. FURNISHING EARLY VOTER ABSENTEE BALLOT ENVELOPES

Upon request, the secretary of state shall furnish the envelopes prescribed in sections 2535 and 2542 of this title to town clerks in such numbers as they request.

Sec. 7. 17 V.S.A. § 2537 is amended to read:

§ 2537. EARLY OR ABSENTEE VOTING IN THE TOWN CLERK’S

OFFICE

*[

An absent]* A voter may, if he or she chooses, apply in person to the town clerk for the early voter absentee ballots and envelopes rather than having them mailed as required by section 2539 of this title. In this case, the clerk shall furnish the early voter absentee ballots and envelopes when a valid application has been made. The *[applicant shall]* voter may mark his or her ballots, seal them in the envelope, sign the certificate, and return the ballots in the sealed envelope to the town clerk or *[his or her assistant]* an assistant town clerk, without leaving the office of the town clerk, or the voter may take the ballots and return them to the town clerk in the same manner as if the ballots had been received by mail. No person, except justices of the peace as provided in section 2538 of this title, may take any ballot from the town clerk on behalf of any other person.

Sec. 8. 17 V.S.A. § 2539 is amended to read:

§ 2539. MAILING OF EARLY VOTER ABSENTEE BALLOTS; PERMANENTLY DISABLED VOTERS

(a) Unless the *[absent]* early or absentee voter votes in the town clerk’s office, or unless the justices are to deliver the early voter absentee ballots to the *[absent]* early or absentee voter, the town clerk shall provide to the early or absentee voter who comes to the town clerk’s office a complete set of early voter absentee ballots or mail a complete set of early voter absentee ballots to each *[absent]* early or absentee voter for whom a valid application has been filed. The early voter absentee ballots shall be mailed forthwith upon the filing of a valid application, or upon the town clerk’s receipt of the necessary ballots, whichever is later. *[Absentee]* Early voter absentee ballots to persons having addresses outside the *[fifty]* 50 states and the District of Columbia shall be sent air mail, first class, postpaid when such service is available.

(b) In the case of persons who are *[absent]* early or absentee voters due to illness or physical disability, if the *[absent]* voter or authorized person requests in his or her application or otherwise that early voter absentee ballots be mailed rather than delivered by justices of the peace, the town clerk shall mail the *[absentee]* ballots; otherwise the *[absentee]* ballots shall be delivered to such *[absent]* voters by justices of the peace. In the case of all other *[absent]* early or absentee voters, the town clerk shall mail the early voter absentee ballots, unless the *[absent]* voter *[by his own choice applies]* chooses to apply and *[votes]* vote in person at the town clerk’s office.

Sec. 9. 17 V.S.A. § 2541 is amended to read:

§ 2541. MARKING OF BALLOTS

(a) An *[absent]* early or absentee voter to whom ballots, envelopes, and instructions are mailed shall mark the ballots in accordance with the instructions.

(b) When an *[absent]* early or absentee voter is blind or is physically unable to go to the polls to vote in person or to mark his or her ballots, they may be marked by one of the officers who delivers the ballots, in the presence of the other officer. A person who gives assistance to a voter in the marking or registering of *[his ballot]* ballots shall not in any way divulge any information regarding the choice of the voter or the manner in which the voter’s ballot was cast.

(c) If an early or absentee voter spoils a ballot, the voter may return the spoiled ballot by mail or in person to the town clerk and receive another ballot, consistent with the provisions of section 2568 of this title.

Sec. 10. 17 V.S.A. § 2543 is amended to read:

§ 2543. RETURN OF BALLOTS

After marking the ballots and signing the certificate on the envelope, the *[absent]* early or absentee voter to whom the same are addressed shall return the ballots to the clerk of the town in which he or she is a voter, in the manner prescribed, except that in the case of a voter to whom ballots are delivered by justices, *[his]* the ballots shall be returned to the justices calling upon him or her, and they shall deliver them to the town clerk. *[Absentee]* Once an early voter absentee ballot has been returned to the clerk in the sealed envelope with the signed certificate, it shall be stored in a secure place and shall not be returned to the voter for any reason. All early voter absentee ballots *[must be]* returned to the clerk before the polls close on election day *[in order to]* shall be counted.

Sec. 11. 17 V.S.A. § 2547 is amended to read:

§ 2547. DEFECTIVE BALLOTS

If upon examination by the election officials it shall appear that the *[absent]* early or absentee voter is not legally qualified to vote, or has voted in person, or that the affidavit on any envelope is insufficient, the certificate is not signed, or the voted ballot is not in the voted ballot envelope, or, in the case of a primary vote, the early or absentee voter has failed to return the unvoted portions of the primary ballots, such envelope shall be marked "defective," and the ballots inside shall not be counted and shall be returned in the unopened envelope to the town clerk in the manner prescribed by section 2590 of this title. The provisions of this section shall be indicated prominently in the *[absent]* early or absentee voter material prepared by the secretary of state.

Sec. 12. GENERAL AMENDMENTS

(a) The terms "absent ballot", "absent ballots", "absentee ballot", and "absentee ballots" are amended to read "early voter absentee ballot" or "early voter absentee ballots", as appropriate, wherever they appear in the Vermont Statutes Annotated.

(b) The terms "absent voter", "absent voters", "absentee voter", and "absentee voters" are amended to read "early or absentee voter" or "early or absentee voters", as appropriate, wherever they appear in the Vermont Statutes Annotated.

(c) The terms "absent voting" and "absentee voting" are amended to read "early or absentee voting" wherever they appear in the Vermont Statutes Annotated.

Sec. 13. EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect upon passage.

Approved: April 10, 2001