On February 12, 2020

How Vermont’s primary differs from Iowa’s caucus

By Jim Condos

Following the results-reporting debacle during the Iowa Democratic Caucus, my office has been asked numerous times about Vermont’s presidential primary process, and if the problems that occurred in Iowa could happen here.

The simple and straightforward answer is “no.” I want to take a moment to clear up how Vermont’s presidential primary process is different from the Iowa caucuses.

In Vermont, a primary is held instead of a caucus, meaning that voters will make their selections in private. For the presidential primary only, Vermont voters must declare which party’s primary they wish to vote in. Only the voter knows who they actually voted for.

The primaries in Vermont are administered by town or city clerks, not by members of the political parties, or their volunteers.  Our clerks are trained election officials, and their election workers also receive training for the work they do at the polls. These are dedicated and highly competent public officials, who work incredibly hard to administer our elections.

Our primary elections follow strict procedures for how elections are administered, and the clerks receive support from our office. In Iowa, the secretary of state is not in charge of the caucus, the political parties are.

Every vote cast in Vermont is cast via a voter-marked paper ballot. This is most important for ensuring the security and integrity of every single vote cast, whether that vote is cast at the polls on election day, early at the clerk’s office, or early by mail.

Without exception: every vote cast has a voter-marked paper ballot to back it up. This allows for elections to be recounted or audited effectively. Ballots are saved and sealed for 22 months following the date of the election.

Vermont voters can vote any time on Election Day while the polls are open, unlike a caucus, and can vote early in person at the cerk’s office, or by mail.

The results are provided by clerks directly to our office on election night for the purposes of providing unofficial results. No phone apps are used.

Again, we always have the voter-marked paper ballots to fall back on if results are ever called into question.

Vermont voters should feel confident in the integrity and security of our elections, and should have confidence in the deliberate process in which our elections are conducted.

In fact, Vermont was ranked No. 1 in the country for elections administration by MIT’s Election Performance Index following the 2016 election. I don’t just say that to toot our own horn – much of the credit goes to our clerks – I just want Vermont voters to feel confident in our process.

Following the Iowa caucuses, we saw waves of misinformation, disinformation, and baseless speculation being spread rampantly on social media. Looking to trusted, official sources for election information has become increasingly important in the digital age.

Our foreign adversaries, like Russia, aim to exploit division in our political process in an effort to ultimately weaken confidence in our democracy. We all have a role to play to ensure we’re not amplifying their efforts; always look to official sources for your election information, and think before you link.

Remember: Your Vote is Your Voice!

Make sure your voter registration is up to date at mvp.sec.state.vt.us. You can even request an early/absentee ballot there, or find your polling place if you plan to vote in person on Primary Election Day.  See you at the polls on March 3.

Jim Condos is Vermont’s secretary of state.

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