Secretary of state candidates differ over threats to elections

Vermont’s candidates for secretary of state are outspoken, well-known personalities. The similarity between Republican H. Brooke Paige and Democratic incumbent Jim Condos ends there.

In interviews with True North, each candidate made the case for why he should be the people’s choice on Election Day.

In Paige’s view, Condos lets partisan politics creep into what is supposed to be a nonpartisan office.

Republican candidate H. Brooke Paige

“He’s a political person. He’s interested in maximizing the opportunities of the Democratic Party in elections and influence within government and minimizing everybody else,” he said.

In any given state, the secretary of state is the top elections official. It’s no surprise, then, that the candidates have traded barbs over such hot-button topics as election security and “voter suppression.”

“I want to see as far as elections that we have restored integrity to the election system,” Paige said. “Not only do I want to make sure there’s no fraud going on, but I want people to know that there’s no fraud is going on.

The Washington resident said he estimates that as much as 4 percent of votes are fraudulent in the state.

“Duplicate voting, dead people voting, students voting both here and in their home state — pick all the machinations you can think of and I think that’s maybe no more than 3 or 4 percent.”

Paige cites a study on voter fraud conducted by former Auditor of Accounts Randy Brock, now a Republican state senator. It showed that the statewide checklist included many dead people and people who had moved away.

“He found that not many of those dead people were actually voting in Vermont, which is a good thing,” he said.

Voter fraud isn’t unheard of in Vermont. In 2017, the town of Victory discovered that many second-home owners were participating in elections when they shouldn’t be.

Paige said Condos’ time in office has only increased suspicion about fraud.

“If you talk to people on the street, about 15 to 20 percent of the people that are out there, and probably 50 percent of the people who don’t vote anymore, believe that there’s substantial voter fraud in the state,” he said.

state of Vermont

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos

Condos, on the other hand, vigorously defends the way his office runs elections, especially as it relates to the voter checklist and the other duties of the office. He responded to some of the allegations by Paige.

“Mr. Paige clearly does not understand or recognize the changes that have been implemented over the years,” he told True North.

He said a lot of the criticisms, including those which resulted from Brock’s study, no longer apply to the updated system, which was modernized in 2015. He added that town clerks also play a role in keeping voter rolls accurate and up to date.

“[Paige] also misunderstands the process when he criticizes me over decisions that are left to local officials. The Town clerks are responsible for adding people to the checklist,” Condos said. “The Boards of Civil Authority are responsible for removing. And there is a process for challenging those decisions.”

He also notes that the current system is able to be audited so it can be determined if someone has voted more than once in an election.

“When someone registers to vote, the system automatically looks to see if that individual is registered in another town. …  And if yes, it will notify that clerk to remove the person.”

He added that having dead people on the checklist is a reality in all states and takes time to update.

But he said is office is ahead of the curve on the issue of election cybersecurity.

“Fortunately … we had started in 2013 to focus on cybersecurity. … Today, we are considered a national leader in protecting the integrity of elections systems.”

He added that his office is implementing a state-of-the-art notary public commissioning process to replace an outdated system which was divided between the judiciary and their office.

He’s also working with Commerce and Community Development, and Digital Services to create what’s called a “BizPortal,” which streamlines the state administrative processes so that businesses can move on to other priorities.

Other differences

Each candidate has different estimates for the number of eligible voters in the state, with Condos figuring about 520,000 and Paige calculating the figure at 497,394.

Paige also wants a caucus primary system, in part to prevent voters from crossing party lines to intentionally manipulate elections. Condos is OK with the status quo, which is the open primary system.

Condos is not in favor of voter ID, and says states that pass laws are out to intimidate voters. Paige is in favor of voter ID laws, and he said the population that allegedly can’t get IDs easily is not well defined. He argues that requiring voters to show identification would go a long way toward eliminating voter fraud.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/EPP and state of Vermont

7 thoughts on “Secretary of state candidates differ over threats to elections

  1. Both candidates endorse the sale of marijuana, ergo neither have the best interests of our families at heart. Stoners neither respect the law nor the liberties of others. That may sound as though painted with broad strokes, but when you think about it – the immature self interest surrounding the issue of personal inebriation – it invites any number of calamities as witnessed in Colorado and like current immigration challenges, flouts the rule of law.

  2. We do know for a fact about a fraud it is taking place in the state of Vermont.

    And we do know that Jim Condos allowed it to happen.

    It is time to restore confidence in the office of secretary of state of Vermont.

    H Brooke Paige has shown a desire to restore confidence in that office by making necessary changes to protect vermonters and to make every legal vote count.

    Let’s restore honesty and integrity to the office.

    My vote goes out to H Brooke Paige for Secretary of State.

  3. H. Brooke Paige is right to be concerned about the appearance of voter fraud in Vermont. Having a small state population increases the significance of factors which suppresses voter turnout. Voter turnouts of 20-30% may be explained by apathy, but more likely, voters are not apathetic but disillusioned, believing their vote doesn’t matter due to fraud their vote will not overcome. Whether Randy Brock’s study results are still operating as factors or not, if people believe the system is rigged and don’t vote out of distrust, we all lose.

    Mr. Condos would have us believe the system is accurate because he says voters registering to vote are searched for by the system for registrations in other towns, and if found to be duplicated, those town clerks are notified to remove the duplicate. The concern, however, is not limited to Vermont duplicates, but college students, for example, who reside out of state, vote by absentee ballot received from their home towns, and then cast votes where they in Vermont as well. These may represent thousands of duplicated national election votes the system does not pick up.

    Further, the system has no way to identify fraudulent same day registration voters crossing state boundary lines from NH, ME, MA or NY, for example, then returning home after voting in VT and casting a same day vote in their home towns. Mr. Condos reportedly (VT Digger) believes same day registration will increase votes by the thousands. Thousands of more opportunities for fraud!

  4. My vote goes to the candidate who wants to protect the sanctity of Vermont voters and their votes,not the one that operates a system for deceased and illegal voters.

  5. I have listened to both and yes H.Brooke Paige brings up some good points, I believe that
    Jim Condos has his head in the sand if he thinks voting in VT is all above board….. Yeah!

    With all the new rules, early voting registering the day of, non-resident students not verifying
    their residence ( VT driver license) .that’s my pet peeve as most don’t take elections seriously
    ( it’s cool ) to follow the crowd or there professor’s liberal mindset.

    That’s how we got Bernie, that was a sad day for VT……………

    Secretary of state should be a nonpartisan official, I don’t see that in Condos !!

  6. Vote for H. Brooke Paige for Secretary of State
    Maybe it’s time to check the equation and Vote for Brooke!

    H. Brooke Paige has recently raised questions while debating Jim Condos about math not adding up as it pertains to the campaign to register eligible voters by the Secretary of State’s office and while he admits he made a math error when he suggested we may have 70,000 more voters registered than are eligible he points out there are still reasons for concern. This does not necessarily indicate any wrong doing but it does cause one to wonder who is being counted and why voter ID’s are not encouraged?

    While his claims may seem an exaggeration to some there are other indicators that a problem of voter access is already in existence in most Towns in Vermont, though it may be too subtle to detect unless you come into direct contact with it. This has to do with the structure of voter access as it relates to Regional Planning Commissions and how zoning bylaws are established by Municipalities.

    Last year while participating in recertification of our Town Plan, language was removed from our old plan that called for voter approval of zoning bylaws. When we objected we were told that statutes no longer allowed it since our Town did not approve things by Australian ballot even though we had done so in the past.
    During this year long process of recertification we began to realize we were being shut out of participating by our vote in these matters so we petitioned for Town Plans and Zoning bylaws to be approved by Australian ballot and the voters said yes.

    At the time and even now it seems strange to us that voters have to petition to gain access to the Australian ballot before they are allowed to use it! Should our vote on Town issues be held hostage to a Statutes interpretation?

    It is somehow odd that we need to register as many voters as possible and at the same time limit access to the Australian ballot of all voters who’s Towns are not singed up to use it. Perhaps Brooke is right, something doesn’t add up. Are we only allowed to vote on some things but discouraged or frustrated on others?

    Is the integrity of our voting system in danger?

    When voters are Shut Out of determining how new rules and projects would affect their personal property rights and values, they are placed in the awkward position of only being able to react after a burden has been placed on them. This puts them at great disadvantage forcing them to appeal by petition instead of being allowed to vote their will up front.
    This is why I am voting for H. Brooke Paige

    Lynn J. Edmunds, Wallingford, Vermont

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *