What can I say? I love voting. Joining with our neighbors at the polls to decide local issues, from wastewater bonds to school budgets, and to vote on who we want to represent us locally, statewide, and nationally, is the beating heart at the core of our democracy.
Unfortunately, this hasn't always been the case in our country. Disenfranchised groups have had to wage decades-long fights for their right to vote. Non-landowners, African-Americans, and women have all had to fight against inequity and injustice to secure suffrage.
Even today, in several states, some eligible voters face barriers and laws designed to keep them off the voter rolls and away from the ballot box. Since 2010 we have seen a concerted effort in some parts of the country to suppress and restrict the rights of eligible voters.
But not here in Vermont. I'm celebrating National Voter Registration Month by being thankful for the many ways that we have increased access to registration and to the ballot box for eligible Vermont voters.
Our online voter registration tools make it easy for Vermont voters to register or update their registration information at home or anywhere they can access a computer or smart phone. We've even made it so that voters can request an early or absentee ballot online, track the status of that ballot, and find information about where their polling place is.
In January 2017 we implemented Election Day Registration, to ensure that every eligible voter who shows up at the polls will be able to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot.
Election Day registration is also one of our best tools to ensure that even if the worst were to happen, and our foreign adversaries were to get past our strong cyber defenses and compromise our voter checklist, no eligible voter would be denied the right to vote on Election Day.
We also implemented Automatic Voter Registration in 2017. This secure registration system not only increases access for eligible voters by registering them when they visit the DMV, it helps us ensure the accuracy and integrity of our voter checklist. Plus it saves both time and money. What's not to love?
We estimate that after a full four-year cycle of implementation we will have registered nearly every eligible voter who has applied for or renewed their driver's license and who did not opt out.
I also want to thank our hard-working town and city clerks for their focus and determination at the polls to ensure all of our voices are heard - please thank them the next time you see them!
These important policies and practices, alongside a host of other improvements we have made to our system of election administration have earned Vermont a "first overall in the nation" ranking of elections on the Elections Performance Index conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Election Data and Science Lab.
Vermont went from 38th in 2012, to 16th in 2014, and after completing these system upgrades and voter registration initiatives, we are now first in the nation! I am proud of this ranking. It shows that we're on the right track, but I know that there's always an opportunity to do more for Vermonters.
Starting in August we launched our new accessible voting system, which enables voters with disabilities to vote their ballot independently and privately at the polls. We're also using this system to make voting more accessible for our overseas voters and military service members serving outside the country.
We'll keep working hard to improve our systems and tear down unnecessary barriers so that every single eligible Vermonter who wants to vote can, and we could use your help!
Help us make sure every eligible Vermonter is registered and ready to vote by first checking that your voter information is up to date at https://mvp.sec.state.vt.us.
Once you've squared yourself away, help spread the word by encouraging friends, neighbors, family members and coworkers who aren't registered to register online at https://olvr.sec.state.vt.us.
You can also register in person at your local clerk's office, or download a voter registration form from our website at https://www.sec.state.vt.us/elections/voters/registration.aspx.
And lastly, Vermont's election team has been working hard to protect our systems through our efforts regarding cybersecurity. You should know that Vermont is considered a national leader as we protect our elections systems from attacks by foreign bad actors to make sure that every vote is protected and accounted for.
Now that you know what we've been up to, the rest is up to you! I hope you join me on Election Day — Tuesday, Nov. 6 — to exercise your right to vote. Don't forget: your vote is your voice!
Jim Condos is Vermont's secretary of state.