Student Voting Guide | Vermont

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Vermont. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here.

While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.

Registration

To be eligible to vote in Vermont you must be 18 years old by Election Day.[1] If you are 17 years old and will be 18 years old by the next general election, you may register and vote in the primary election immediately preceding that general election.[2]

The voter’s oath (or affirmation if you are opposed to swearing an oath) states that you will vote your conscience and not be told how to vote by another person. The voter’s oath may be administered by any person over the age of 18. That individual must sign and date the application in the designated location.[3] You may also attest yourself that you have taken the oath.[4]

You may apply in person at the town clerk’s office or by mail. Your registration must be received (if in person) or postmarked (if by mail) by 5p.m. on the Wednesday before Election Day.[5] Registration forms are available online to download and print.

Residency

Vermont, like most states, allows students to decide whether to register at their school address or another address, so long as they register and vote in only one place.

At School.  Vermont defines a “resident” as someone having an intent to maintain a principal dwelling place in a place indefinitely and to return there if temporarily absent, coupled with an act or acts consistent with that intent.[6] Students can establish residency in Vermont if they have a present intention to remain at their Vermont school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.[7] The Secretary of State has indicated that students from out-of-state may vote in Vermont if they think it’s their primary home.[8] Note that students are formally classified as “nonresidents” under Vermont motor vehicle laws.[9]

At Home. Students who lived in Vermont before moving elsewhere to attend school, and who wish to establish or keep voting as a Vermont resident (i.e., from their parents’ Vermont address), should have no problem doing so unless they have already registered to vote in another state. Like most states, Vermont allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the district to attend school.[10] The only way you will lose your voting residency in Vermont is by establishing residency in a new state. While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of your residency in Vermont, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Vermont with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register at home.

Challenges to Residency. If the town clerk questions your eligibility to vote when you first apply, they will refer your application to the board of civil authority.[11] The board will review your application and can examine you under oath.[12] If the board finds that you are ineligible to vote in Vermont, they must notify you as soon as possible in writing and state their reasons.[13] Vermont courts have noted that in determining your residency, the board must “bear in mind that election laws are to be liberally construed and that a very heavy burden of proof must be met if persons are to be disenfranchised.”[14]

If the elections board denies your application, you can appeal to a court (no filing fee or lawyer is required).[15] The appeal must be completed with sufficient speed in order to enable you to vote in the upcoming election.[16] At the hearing, anyone, including the applicant, may present evidence.[17] You will be allowed to vote if the town clerk receives a written order from the court saying that you are permitted to vote.[18] Once you are on the checklist for a particular election, your eligibility to vote cannot be challenged at the polls.[19]

Identification

No identification is required at the polls unless you are a first-time Vermont voter who registered to vote by mail.[20]

If you are a first-time Vermont voter who registered by mail and did not have your identity verified by the state, you must provide ID either by showing it when you vote in person or by submitting a copy of your ID with your absentee ballot.[21]

Sufficient proof of identity includes:

  1. A valid photo identification;
  2. A copy of a current utility bill;
  3. A copy of a current bank statement; or
  4. A copy of a government check, paycheck, or any other government document that shows the current name and address of the voter.[22]

If you cannot show ID, you will be allowed to vote by provisional ballot.[23] Your vote will be counted if the town clerk determines that your provisional ballot meets all of the registration eligibility requirements.[24]

Absentee Voting

In Vermont, any voter—including first-time voters—can vote absentee, without providing a reason for doing so.[25] You can request an absentee ballot in person, by phone, or with the absentee request form.[26] Your application for an absentee ballot must be filed with the town clerk in the town where you are registered to vote.[27] Your application must be received by the town clerk by 5:00 p.m. the day before the election.[28] An authorized family member[29] may also request an absentee ballot on your behalf.[30]

For your completed absentee ballot to be counted, it must be returned, by mail or in person, to your Town Clerk’s office by the close of business the day before the election or to your polling place by 7pm on Election Day.[31] If you are a first-time voter who registered by mail you will need to send your town clerk a copy of your identification (as outlined above under the Identification section) with your completed absentee ballot.[32]

Early Voting

As a convenience to voters, Vermont has early voting beginning 45 days before the election and ending on Election Day.[33] You should check with your town clerk for the exact dates, times, and locations for early voting. See Vermont’s Guide to Town Clerks.

Last Updated August 15, 2014.


[1] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, §2121(a).

[2] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, §2121(b).

[3] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, §2124

[4] See Vermont Voter Registration Application, available at https://www.sec.state.vt.us/media/33935/VTVoterApp.pdf.

[5] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, §2144(a).

[6] See Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2122.

[7] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[8] Voter Registration: Frequently Asked Questions, Vt. Sec’y of State, https://www.sec.state.vt.us/elections/frequently-asked-questions/voter-registration.aspx (last accessed August 14, 2014) (“Q. I am from out of state and I go to college in Vermont. Can I vote in Vermont? A. Yes, any U.S. citizen who is 18 years old and who lives in Vermont can vote in Vermont as long as the voter considers Vermont to be his or her primary residence.”).

[9] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 23, § 4 (“Without limiting the class of nonresidents under the provisions of this subdivision, persons who live in the State for a particular purpose involving a defined period of time, including students… are not residents for purposes of [the Motor Vehicle title] only.”)

[10] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2122 (status as a student does not by itself rid one of residency in Vermont); Voter Registration: Frequently Asked Questions, Vt. Sec’y of State, https://www.sec.state.vt.us/elections/frequently-asked-questions/voter-registration.aspx (last accessed August 14, 2014) (“Q. Can I vote in Vermont even though I am at college or working out of state? A. Yes. If you are living out of state temporarily—for example, for college…—you can continue to vote in Vermont where you were last living as long as you consider that location your primary residence and have a specific intent to return.”).

[11] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2144b(c).

[12] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2146(a).

[13] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2146(b).

[14] Shivelhood, 363 F. Supp. 1111, 1114 (D. Vt. 1971).

[15] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2148(a).

[16] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2148(a).

[17] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2148(b).

[18] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2148(c).

[19] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2148(c).

[20] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2563(1).

[21] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2563(1).

[22] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2563(1).

[23] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2563(1).

[24] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2557.

[25] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2531.

[26] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2532(a).

[27] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2531(b).

[28] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2531(a).

[29] Must be a blood relative: spouse, children, brothers, sisters, parents, spouse's parents, grandparents, and spouse's grandparents. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2532(a).

[30] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2532(a).

[31] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2543. See also Absentee Voting, Vt. Sec’y of State, https://www.sec.state.vt.us/elections/voters/absentee-voting.aspx (last accessed Jul. 28, 2014).

[32] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2546(b).

[33] Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2537; see also Absentee Voting, Vt. Sec’y of State, https://www.sec.state.vt.us/elections/voters/absentee-voting.aspx (last accessed Jul. 28, 2014).