Text of Interview with Martin Cohn on Brattleboro Community Television’s ‘Meet the Candidates’ – 09/15/20 https://www.brattleborotv.org/meet-candidates/pamala-smith-candidate-secretary-state-i

Why are you seeking this office?

The office of Vermont Secretary of State has an immense role in the health and wealth of Vermonters.

I was very surprised to see in the Primary election that neither the Democratic or Republican races were contested.

First, as the office responsible for the integrity of elections, it is an important guardian of Democracy. 

The incumbent states that the layers of security, trusted election officials and chains of command are what ensure election integrity. 

These are necessary components and have been developed as a result of lessons from the past. 

What is not considered in the current system is the citizens role. 

The citizens know who they voted for.

Their knowledge of the accuracy of the results is an important factor which could really help in deciding whether or not errors have occurred. 

In this campaign I am proposing a system that allows the candidate to confirm that their votes were cast just as they’d intended. 

Voters knowing that they will have an opportunity to confirm the results could lead to greater confidence and as a result both a greater candidate pool and more voter turnout. 


I also believe that Regulation is an indispensable Governmental tool.  Government is funded by citizens for citizens.

There may be times when a citizens position in a business transaction becomes too undervalued. 

They may need some assistance from their government.

If the standards used by two parties in a transaction (in this case Professional Service Providers and Citizens) have diverged greatly, the role of regulator may be able help to bring the two sets of standards closer to harmony.      

I would like to see a more visible emphasis on this aspect of the Office presented to the populace. 

These are the two biggest reasons I am seeking the Office of Secretary of State. 


What sets you apart from the other candidates seeking this office?

I would say that the two biggest things that set me apart from the other candidates seeking the office are

1) my studies in Information Technology and

2) the fact that I have no significant affiliations with any groups or movements. 

I’ve studied many subjects at UVM over the years – many of these courses covered a variety of topics in management and administration and nine of them were in the field of information technology in different topics like web page design, database management, and security.

I have also worked in Tech Support for the last fourteen years and in this position I have had to continually discover more and more about the field in order to fulfill my role.

I am the only candidate running for the Office of Secretary of State who could contribute well to a conversation on the Information Technology needs of the Office. 

Significant Affiliations with any groups or movements

Jim Condos came to State Government after many years in local government. 

I would say from what I’ve seen that his relationship with the local government sector is too ‘comfortable’, too friendly, too apologetic. 

He seems to think that the municipal assistance role of the Office requires relatively frequent meetings for education purposes. 

I would like to see the website serve the grand majority of the municipal assistance needs of local government by making it as clear, up to date, and easy to use as possible. 

Instead, I would see my relationship with local officials as one that is more parallel, unless otherwise required. 

In Vermont PBS’ 2016 Demoncratic Candiate for Governor Debate, in a question about what each Candidate would do about the budget, Cris Ericsson’s only real point was that the National Alliance for Right to Life wants to focus on adoption instead of abortion.

And on H. Brooke Paige’s facebook page he states that he thinks Vermont is on a journey to perdition and he has some preconceived notions referring to some locals as ‘granola crunchers’.

Making references to a whole State going to hell and making judgments because someone chooses to eat oats, berries, and seeds indicate a bigotry very inappropriate for the Office of Secretary of State.

I will be coming to this position alone, looking to get work done – work that the Office is meant to do, like ensure confidence in the voting process and help citizens to obtain professional services without concern. 


What are your two top priorities if you’re elected?

In my campaign I have presented my three main initiatives. 

  • When you vote, I would like to provide a format that uses a private id for each individual voter that allows them to actually confirm that their vote was cast and recorded just as they’d intended, for every voter.

The second is establishing a place on our website where consumers can write publicly viewable reviews of professional service provision.

After all of this time with the internet there has not yet been a permanent established place where customers can go to view trusted reviews of professional service providers. 

This could be a great indication that it needs to be a function of the public sector.

The third initiative would be to anonymize and publicly post formal complaints made by consumers, even if the complaint is denied.

Of these three I would say that vote confirmation and publicly available anonymization of complaints would be my top two priorities.  I would prioritize anonymization of complaints over publicly professional reviews because it could be done as you go – as cases are being reviewed. 

Professional reviews with involve some initial set up and adjustment.

If elected, what would you do to ensure that more Vermont families with young children can find and afford child care?

I do not see a huge role for the Office of Secretary of State in this realm. 

That said, I was recently sent a questionnaire to fill out by “Let’s Grow Kids” and was amazed at the huge amount work that this organization is doing statewide to maximize the early development of every Vermont child. 

It is a huge movement facilitated largely by this organization that I didn’t know a thing about beforehand and it is a very encouraging example of grassroots activism. 

  • They are wholeheartedly addressing every angle of the affordable child care problem from working with legislators on policy initiatives, working on
  • working on bettering childcare capacity by supporting programs to open or expand,
  • working to understand and lessen both employee and employer limitations and
  • really building a movement to lead to improved health as a result of early childhood education for every Vermont child.

Their goal to engage the whole state and they are well on the way.  I think the strongest thing I could do would be to direct others to this organization.


Recent reports indicate that seniors in Vermont face one of the highest rates of financial insecurity.  How do you think we can make life for seniors more affordable?

Many seniors are dependent on pharmaceuticals.  Often being able to purchase these pharmaceuticals means going without healthy food options.

Many seniors are living on fixed incomes, and extremely modest fixed incomes at that, and then the price of every single thing goes up – even water, even electricity, even the loaves of bread get smaller.

I try to think of answers that do not say, “The government needs to fund this more” because it does seem that that is coming from every direction. 

That said, I think that a healthy society cherishes their aged population and keeps them as close as possible for as long as possible.

This is a sector of society that is deserving of governmental attention and support.

It may require legislation that controls what seniors can be charged for things like pharmaceuticals, water, electricity, and bread, as examples.  Their incomes should be supplemented as well.  Then maybe they could afford more fruits and vegetables.


What is your vision for Vermont in a post-Covid world?

My vision for a post-Covid world is one in which Environmentalism can again be a growing movement.

 It is one in which group and free cooperative participation can again yield exponential results. 

It is one where sustainable business practices can easily lead to business success.

It is one where individuals can see cause and effect that determine the atmosphere within which they live. 

It is one where the pre-Covid systems and foundations that were built or in the process of being built by compassionate humans can again be put into motion.

It is one where children and young adults can amass as much knowledge and opportunity from as many others as they can , which is their right as a result of being born in the 21st century. 

It is definitely one where patients have more control over diagnostics that determine their outcomes – whether it be by way of additional alternative markets, emerging technologies, or some governmental role. 

And it is one where the aged and differently abled are well immersed in communities that can gain their insight and that can help to keep their bodies as healthy as possible. 


What do you want voters to know about you?

First, I would want voters to know that I would be honored to serve as Vermont’s next Secretary of State.

I have worked at UVM’s main library for 22 years.

I took advantage of UVM’s tuition remission benefit continually until 2016, gaining a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, followed by many other courses.

In these courses I earned instruction and training from some of the brightest minds around and the library provided me with a huge selection of resources to facilitate this instruction and training. 

Before working as tech support I worked with current scholarship in all fields in the form of current periodicals. 

I absolutely loved this time of my life for this reason and I believe that the tidbits of insight I got from perusing the most current research every day led me to have a very broad outlook.

I grew up in Richford and St. Albans and moved back to St. Albans after living in Burlington for 13 years and have lived here since 2002. 

Vermont is my home and has been for as long as I can remember. 

I love Vermont’s healthy environment and how we have taken real good care of our State up until now. 

And I love that Vermonters are honest and hard working people who work together to meet their goals.