By Guy Page
Vermonters concerned about reports of ballot harvesting fraud in other states wonder, “could it happen here?”
There are no known substantiated allegations of illegal ballot harvesting in Vermont. As reported last week in Vermont Daily Chronicle, the elements needed for the type of ballot fraud portrayed in the Dinesh D’Souza documentary 2000 Mules already exist in Vermont: universal mailed ballots and outdoor ballot collection drop boxes.
In fact, Vermont is more lenient about ballot harvesting and drop box depositing and requires less video surveillance than some states seen in 2000 Mules. Some states require drop box video surveillance, prohibit ballot gathering to an individual’s family members, and impose strict limits on how many ballots can be deposited at a single time. None of those restrictions are true in Vermont.
According to S15, a 2021 update of the 2020 “pandemic election law,” one person may collect and deposit up to 25 ballots at a single time into a ballot drop box. Anyone – including not-for-profit groups – may collect and deposit ballots, except candidates and campaign workers.
The law says this ballot drop box must “be under 24-hour video surveillance, or in the alternative be within sight of the municipal building.” It is not known how many of the 200 Vermont municipalities employing drop boxes employ video surveillance, or instead took the cheaper route of installing the box “within sight of the municipal building.”
It is likely that many of Vermont’s municipal ballot drop boxes were purchased with financial assistance from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Center for Tech and Civic Life. According to CTCL data, 112 Vermont municipalities received funding (averaging about $5000) to assist with the challenges of conducting an election during a pandemic and universal mailed ballots. Of these 112 towns, 102 also employed drop boxes during the 2020 general election, according to Vermont Daily Chronicle’s graph (see below) of publicly-available VPIRG and CTCL data.
The entirety of the drop box section of the 2021 universal mailed ballot law may be read here (pg. 16) or seen below:
PROVISION OF SECURE BALLOT DROP BOXES
(a) A board of civil authority may vote to install one or more secure outdoor ballot drop boxes (drop boxes) for the return of voted ballots.
(b) Drop boxes shall be located on municipal property. If a town has only one drop box, it shall be located on the property of the municipal clerk’s office.
(c) Drop boxes shall allow for the return of ballots by voters at any time of day and must be available for the return of ballots not later than 43 days before the election.
(d) Drop boxes shall be installed and maintained in accordance with guidance issued by the Secretary of State’s office.
At a minimum, drop boxes shall:
(1) be affixed to a foundation or other immovable object such that they cannot be removed without being tampered with;
(2) be under 24-hour video surveillance or in the alternative be within sight of the municipal building;
(3) be constructed in such a manner that it is impossible to remove the ballots without the ballot box being tampered with; and
(4) be able to be closed such that ballots may not be deposited once the deadline for deposit has passed.
(e) (1) Ballots may be deposited in the drop boxes until the close of business on the day before the election. At the close of business, the drop box shall be closed and instructions affixed to the drop box instructing the voter to return the voter’s voted ballot to the polling place on the day of the election.
(2) Notwithstanding subdivision (1) of this subsection, a board of civil authority may vote to allow ballots to be deposited in the drop boxes until not later than the closing of the polls on election day.
(f) The Secretary of State’s office shall provide drop boxes to a town or city upon request following a vote of the board of civil authority. The maximum number of drop boxes that the Secretary of State’s office shall provide in any town or city shall be as follows:
(1) up to 5,000 registered voters, one;
(2) between 5,000 and 10,000 registered voters, two;
(3) between 10,000 and 15,000 registered voters, three;
(4) between 15,000 and 20,000 registered voters, four; and
(5) over 20,000 registered voters, five.
(6) A town or city may have a number of secure drop boxes equal to the number of representative districts in that town or city, with one drop box located in each district, if that number is greater than the number allowed based on that town or city’s number of registered voters.
|Municipalities with ballot dropboxes||Municipalities with ballot dropboxes also receiving Zuckerberg funding||Municipalities receiving Zuckerberg funding but having no dropboxes|
|Isle La Motte|
|Saint Albans City||y|
|Saint Albans Town||y|
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