Op/Ed

Editorial: Riding coattails, getting credit

Vermont’s Democratic Party has a bone to pick with the national news media: the national media, party officials allege, are giving Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, major kudos for leading an expansion of voting rights in Vermont. It’s a ripe story in the national press because most Republican governors are doing the opposite and passing restrictive laws that depress voter participation among people of color and favor the status quo.

Scott stands apart as a Republican governor championing progressive ideas.

Not so fast, Vermont Dems are saying.

Scott has jumped on the coattails of an effort led by Democrat Sec. of State Jim Condos, as well as House Speaker Jill Krowinski and Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint. It’s the Legislature that initiated S.15, and Condos has taken the lead on reaching out to town clerks and others to determine how best to design the legislation so that it was workable at the town level.

Democrats recalled that it was Scott who put on the brakes in the spring of 2020 when they were pushing to move with the Universal Vote by Mail to keep people safe.  He dragged his feet, they recall, while citing vague “concerns” about the effect such a change in voting procedure might have. He has also vetoed two bills just this session that would also expand voters’ rights in the cities of Montpelier and Winooski, which had been approved by local residents.

Their point is accurate: He is not the knight on a white horse championing this legislation in Vermont.

In the end, however, Gov. Scott would join Democrats to support and sign the legislation — and that support, from a Republican in these times, is certainly praiseworthy at the local and national level.

But, as if correcting the recording for the national media, it was the Democratic legislature that did the “hard work on S.15: they listened to Vermont’s town clerks, listened to testimony from a wide range of Vermonters, reached out across the aisle, and made the smart, safe, voter-inclusive decisions that mark, what Sec. Condos said was “the largest expansion of Vermont voter access in decades.”

As Condos wrote in an op-ed this past week: “Once again, Vermont is leading the nation. We are making sure that democracy remains in reach for all voters, and becomes even more accessible for those Vermonters who may otherwise be left out. With the enactment of S.15, Vermont is now one of the most voter friendly states in the country, while maintaining strong safeguards ensuring the security and integrity of our elections and the results they produce. When you give people the tools they need to vote, they do.”

Vermonters, of course, shouldn’t really care who gets the credit at the national level. Scott has credited the Legislature with working on this issue, and many budget issues, on numerous occasions. What we should all be grateful for is that we have a Legislature and a governor from the two major parties who work together productively. That’s the real story.

Angelo Lynn

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