VPIRG denies 2020 general election ballot harvesting

By Guy Page

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), a leading advocacy group for the use of drop boxes and universal mailed ballots in Vermont, has not engaged in ballot harvesting, Paul Burns said.

A 2021 Vermont pandemic election law supported by VPIRG explicitly permits third parties (except candidates and campaign workers) to collect ballots from voters, a practice also known as “ballot harvesting.” 

The documentary film 2000 Mules uncovered questionable and possibly illegal ballot harvesting in several states. Vermont Daily Chronicle determined that Vermont’s pandemic election-era law allows two key features that enable ballot harvesting: universal mailed ballots collected by third parties, delivered to well-funded not-for-profit advocacy organizations, and then delivered to ballot drop boxes (more than 100 Vermont municipalities have them). 

No-one has accused VPIRG – or any other Vermont organization – of ballot harvesting. Vermont Daily Chronicle asked VPIRG about any involvement in ballot harvesting, because not only was it a strong advocate for the new election laws, it also has a well-established “ground game” of sending young Vermonters door-to-door soliciting questionnaire responses and donations. 

So VDC asked VPIRG June 7: “Did VPIRG do any ballot harvesting during the 2020 campaign? If so, how did you go about doing it?”

On June 13, VDC received this response from VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns:

“Your note was passed to me as I head up our Democracy Program work. You asked about ballot harvesting, which is not a legal term. I’m guessing you’re asking whether VPIRG collected completed ballots from voters and submitted them for processing in the 2020 election. The answer to that question is no.” 

Burns further explained that VPIRG is motivated by increasing access to voting. “As you may know, VPIRG has prioritized making voting as easy as possible. We believe our democracy works best when everyone participates. So, we strive to get as close to full participation as possible.”

Paul Burns has been VPIRG executive director since 2001. His bio states: “VPIRG is Vermont’s largest nonprofit, consumer and environmental advocacy organization. In just the past few years, VPIRG has played a major role in several landmark achievements including the nation’s first ban on fracking, tough new regulations on toxics, and the precedent-setting requirement that GMO foods be labeled. Paul’s leadership was integral to the success of those campaigns. Previously, he worked for 15 years as an attorney, advocate and organizer for PIRGs in New York and Massachusetts. He earned his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Oswego, and his law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law.”

Categories: Elections

8 replies »

  1. It’s no surprise VPIRG did not collect ballots door to door at the height of the pandemic. The real questions is do they intend to collect ballots during the 2022 campaign.

  2. While ‘ballot harvesting’ may not be a legal term, Burns knows what it refers to. Can it be proved that VPIRG was involved in this activity? Probably not. It’s a hard sell to me that they weren’t.



  4. Non-profits = money laundering. I used to have some respect for these organizations. They used to be ethical. Their actions over the past few years speaks otherwise. They tend to have adminstrators making 6 figures or more and the rest (underlings) are paid peanuts. I wonder why.

  5. Remember all those reports of “ballots” at apartments for folks NOT residing there during the last …”election”? WHO “scrubs” the ROLLS of the dead & those who moved, if anyone, if ever? Reminds me of an old joke..”My parents voted Republican ALL their lives, since they died they’ve been voting Democrat”..Whose “public Interest” are these non-prof’s PUSHING? Maybe the folks who FEED THEM? Once Leahy’s gone (physically, he’s been gone mentally for a LONG time) MANY of these Grant-Sucking-Chair-Warmers are gonna have to find REAL work..Like the “Newport Renaissance Commission” that paid some $50,000 to a Montreal Co. (relatives?) for this slogan–“Newport–Genuine By Nature”..We could start “Cleaning” w/VEDA then work our way through ALL these “Alphabet” Agencies, out, out, out! Be GONE!

  6. Nonprofits are the scourge of Vermont. Per capita, VT is probably on the top of the list for most of them in a state. These nonprofits funnel huge amounts of money to sway and buy off legislators and other office holders in the state. Nonprofits engage lobbyist to push their agenda and in Vermont a mostly liberal agenda. So, when that cute, young lady or handsome young man from VPERG shows up at your door for a survey and a donation, you should understand that you may be cutting your own throat. We should ban all paid lobbyists in Vermont. Since the influx of nonprofits in Vermont the people have less representation in the legislature. The people who vote and do the work to keep the state running do not have professional lobbyists. What we have now is taxation without representation. The laws we must follow are written by lawmakers who are paid by nonprofit paid lobbyists. That’s why things are the way they are and not designed for the good of the people or our constitution. How many lobbyists would be influencing politicians if they were volunteers with no money to fan the flames of political persuasion?

  7. Striving for “full participation” means getting as many democrat ballots as possible, period.

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