Vermont got a taste of presidential politics this week when Mitt Romney’s campaign complained that Vermont’s secretary of state didn’t get ballots to members of the military on time. But Secretary of State Jim Condos says it’s just political posturing by Romney.
Most voters in Vermont have 44 days to vote, but time is running out for military men and women serving abroad to get absentee ballots in the mail, and to complete and return them.
Romney’s campaign says Vermont missed federal deadlines for military voters from some towns, a charge the secretary dismisses as politics. "This is not political," said Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the Romney campaign. "This is simply ensuring that our fighting men and women have the right to vote."
The Romney campaign says federal law requires towns to send ballots to members of the military 45-days before the election.
Williams concedes Vermont’s situation is unique. "It seems that in Vermont there’s a particular situation given the fact they didn’t print ballots on time due to the recount in the gubernatorial third party primary," Williams said.
Ballots in Vermont’s Progressive Party gubernatorial primary had to be recounted, delaying printing. So the Romney campaign says Vermont should have asked the Department of Justice to waive the 45-day requirement.
Condos says he takes the issue seriously, but he thinks Romney is trying to score political points.
There were 834 ballot requests from members of the military from Vermont, 788 of which went out in the mail or by email. And Condos says the state is working to get ballots to the remaining 46.
"We had taken steps to ensure that the clerks would be able to make the deadline," Condos said. "As allowed by law, we [emailed] all the ballots and sent a copy of the ballot by Friday afternoon."
Of course, any delay isn’t likely to affect the outcome of the presidential race in Vermont. In this bluest of blue states, the result of that race is a foregone conclusion – whether military ballots are included or not.
But Middlebury College Professor Matt Dickinson says Governor Romney’s efforts might influence some down-ticket races, and even the presidential election in a neighboring battleground state.
"[Romney] might be trying to get some favorable reaction that will play well in New Hampshire," Dickinson said. "Anything to try to score some political points with a potential voting constituency I guess is worth it."
Secretary Condos may argue that the Romney campaign’s complaint is a sideshow, but Dickinson notes that Condos himself has advocated pushing back the primary in Vermont to allow more time to send out general election ballots to all constituents.
PDF: Read the letter from the Romney campaign to Secretary Condos here.