MONTPELIER — Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos waded into election integrity issues Tuesday, announcing his fears that a section of a bill moving through Congress could lead to the policing of polling places by armed Secret Service agents.
“I recently learned of language included in Section 4012 of H.R. 2825, which provides for the reauthorization of the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would allow armed Secret Service agents to enter polling locations at the direction of the president,” Condos said Tuesday in statement.
“To say that I am shocked would be a severe understatement. … This action is more emblematic of a totalitarian government than the democracy that I and other elected officials, including the President and members of Congress, have sworn an oath to protect.”
H.R. 2825, which amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002, is now up for consideration in the U.S. Senate. Regarding Section 4012, Condos urged Congress to “take immediate steps to remove this affront to our democracy.”
According to a DHS summary of the bill, Section 4012 “permits Secret Service agents to protect presidential candidates at polling places.”
Text of the current draft of the questioned amendment to Section 4012 reads as follows: “This section shall not prevent any officer or agent of the U.S. Secret Service from providing armed protective services under Section 3056 or pursuant to a Presidential memorandum at any place where a general or special election is being held.”
Condos said he is “deeply concerned” that lawmakers might allow Secret Service agents to “intrude upon the citadels of our democracy at the discretion of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election.”
Despite being a self-proclaimed champion of voting integrity concerns, Condos has been among the loudest opponents in Montpelier of President Donald Trump’s call to crack down on voter fraud.
Condos said the bill would serve to “weaponize” polling places and make agents “suppress and intimidate voters at their neighborhood precincts.”
Authorization for feds to monitor polling places may be an attempt to prevent activist groups from prior alleged voter intimidation, such as when members of the radical leftist New Black Panther Party were accused of intimidating Philadelphia voters and Republican election monitors during the 2012 general election.
The Vermont Secretary of State’s office has been criticized for its work in attempting to keep elections secure and free of abuse.
In February, the Center for American Progress released a report on election security and gave Vermont a “C” grade.
In addition, a Vermont Superior Court judge issued a ruling in February that led to the removal of 13 percent of the electorate from the voter checklist in the small Northeast Kingdom town of Victory. The case exposed that non-residents from other towns and states had been casting votes simply because they were second-home owners.
During the trial, members of a family from Connecticut who voted in Vermont claimed they got approval to do so from the Vermont Secretary of State’s office, according to public court documents.
In a commentary following the revelation, Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, said the testimony by the defendants reflects negatively on Condos’ management of election issues: “If their (the Connecticut family) testimony is true, the Secretary of State’s office under Jim Condos is actively undermining Vermont’s clearly written election law regarding residency requirements.”
Regarding Section 4012 of H.R. 2825, Condos announced that he and 18 other secretaries of state are asking for U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer to reject “the harmful proposal.”
“While it is disconcerting that we find ourselves in this position, it is my hope that our members of Congress will recognize this proposal for the true threat to our democratic process that it is,” Condos said.
Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at email@example.com.