Vermont Votes for Kids: A project of the Vermont Secretary of State

9-12 Curriculum, Student Handout for Lesson 3:
Dimpled Ballots, Hanging Chads and Reform


Events in the last decade have pointed to the fundamental need for election reform in our nation. The policy of the state of Vermont is to encourage every eligible person to register to vote and to participate fully in all elections and to protect the integrity of the electoral process by providing equal access to the process while guarding against discrimination and fraud.

Vermont has never faced problems as large as Florida's in the 2000 presidential election. This is in large part because we stopped using voting machines in the 1980s and every town must follow the same rules when it counts and recounts ballots. But we are as vulnerable to human error as any state in the country. Vermont has had its own share of problems, albeit on a much smaller scale. For example, a court in Chittenden County threw out a local election because the town could not explain why more ballots were cast in the election than voters were checked off on the voter checklist.

You need to feel confident that your adult leaders are trying to learn from mistakes by making improvements in the election system. You need to feel that steps are being taken to enhance the reliability and credibility of voting results.


Vermont's response to the issues generated by the 2000 Presidential election are reviewed in two articles published in 2003 by former Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz: Majority Rule in Vermont's Elections, and Election Reform – Challenges and Opportunities. These can be found at

There are many possible answers to the questions below, so be sure to support your opinions with the reasoning you used.


  1. Could the problems that Florida faced in the 2000 election happen in Vermont? Why or why not?
  2. How might voter participation be increased in Vermont?
  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a statewide voter checklist?
  4. What is the purpose of the Help America Vote Act?
  5. How could the statewide checklist help prevent fraud? How could it concurrently provide a service to voters?
  6. Which do you think is most critical to improve the system's credibility, to ensure voter confidence in the election system?
Bonus question:

Is there a reform you would like to see enacted that is not mentioned in the articles listed above? What is it? Why do you think we need it? Would it be aimed at the credibility or the reliability of the election system?

Don't stop here! Maybe your idea needs to be transmitted to your state officials? You might consider writing a letter expressing your views on election reforms to the Secretary of State (secretnullary@senullc.statnulle.vt.unulls), your State Representative or U.S. Congressional member. This could be in support or opposition to one of those listed on your activity sheet or it could be your original suggestion for a reform not listed.

Vermont Secretary of State