A Republican Governor, Vermont’s Phil Scott, Actually Just Expanded Voting Rights

Republican governors across the country are on a mission to restrict voting rights with a series of Jim Crow-era laws that specifically are targeting people of color. That’s why Monday’s action by Vermont GOP Gov. Phil Scott is so surprising – and welcome.

Scott has signed legislation that requires every registered voter in his state to receive a mail-in ballot for statewide elections. The bill, overwhelmingly approved by Vermont’s General Assembly, also allows voters to fix, or “cure,” a ballot that has been deemed defective if it was filled out or mailed incorrectly. Scott’s brave political move is reminiscent of the courage he showed on the race track during his time as a driver in the Safelite 50 American Canadian Tour series.

In a statement on Monday Scott said he signed the bill “because I believe making sure voting is easy and accessible and increasing voter participation is important.” He also said he wants the provision to be expanded to include primary elections, local elections and school budget votes.

Last year, in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Vermont officials agreed to send out mail-in ballots to voters so they could cast their votes safely. It was extremely popular and successful. More than 75 percent of registered voters cast ballots early or by mail, according to the office of Jim Condos, Vermont’s secretary of state. Voter turnout was high, with more than 73 percent of the state’s 506,000 registered voters casting ballots.

“We should be proud of our brave state,” Condos, a Democrat, said in a statement last month. Though he did not name states where lawmakers have worked to restrict voting rights — Florida, Georgia and Texas among them — Condos contrasted those Republican-led efforts with the measure in Vermont, where the Republican governor had expressed support for a bipartisan bill.

“While others are working to make it harder to vote, in Vermont we are working to remove barriers to the ballot box for all eligible voters, while strengthening the security and integrity of the voting process,” Mr. Condos said.

Becca Balint, the president pro tempore of the State Senate, said in a statement that the approval of the bill “stands in stark contrast to legislatures across the country who continue voter suppression efforts, targeting practices like mail-in voting that have correlated with higher turnout among people of color.”

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