The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (June 2020)
Ballot collecting, also known as "ballot harvesting", is the gathering and submitting of completed absentee or mail-in voter ballots by third-party individuals, volunteers or workers, rather than submission by voters themselves directly to ballot collection sites. It occurs in some areas of the U.S. where voting by mail is common, but some other states have laws restricting it. Proponents of ballot collection promote it as enfranchising those who live in remote areas or lack ready access to transportation, are incapacitated or in hospital or jail. Critics of ballot collection claim high probability for vote misappropriation or fraud.
Policy in the United States
As of July 2020, 26 states allow specified agents to collect and submit ballots for another voter. Usually such agents are family members or persons in the same household. 13 states neither enable nor prohibit ballot collection as a matter of law. Among those that allow it, 12 have limits on how many ballots an agent may collect.
Arizona banned the practice in 2016 except for family members and caregivers. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stayed the ban in 2016, with Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas describing the practice as "one of the most popular and effective methods by which minority voters cast their ballots". The United States Supreme Court then stayed the Ninth Circuit ruling that overturned the ban, and a U.S. District Court judge upheld the ban in 2018. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit found that the law violated the Voting Rights Act. The subsequent challenge to Arizona's law was the centerpiece of the 2021 Supreme Court case Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, which questions if the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Supreme Court ruled in a 6–3 decision in July 2021 that neither of Arizona's election policies violated the VRA nor had a racially discriminatory purpose.
California changed its rules before the 2018 midterm elections to allow people other than family members to collect and submit ballots. Last-minute submissions of votes in the election delayed results and some pundits and Republican politicians suggested that it influenced the outcome of several elections.
While the Los Angeles Times editorial board rejected claims that any elections were affected by the new ballot harvesting law in the 2018 midterms, it did call for the law to be fixed or repealed, saying the law "does open the door to coercion and fraud." Republicans, in turn, are seeking to improve their own use of the practice, according to The Washington Post.
As of July 2020, Colorado imposes a limit of ten ballots on any collector who is not a properly designated official.
In 2019 Georgia passed HB 316, which among other items prohibits any other person other than the elector, a relative (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, and in-laws) or an individual residing in the same household from returning the ballot. Exceptions are enumerated for disabled electors, those confined to the hospital, and those imprisoned or detained. In 2021, the Election Integrity Act (Senate Bill 202) eased the requirements necessary for successful prosecution of ballot harvesters.
In 2018, Montana voters approved a limit of six ballots per ballot collector. A state court struck down the law in 2020, saying it disproportionately burdened older, low-income, and Indigenous voters.
In 2021, the Montana legislature passed a law making it illegal for anyone who receives a monetary benefit to collect ballots. Lawsuits challenging its constitutionality were filed shortly after it was signed into law, and a state court issued a temporary injunction blocking its implementation during the litigation.
Ballot collecting is not legal in North Carolina for anyone other than a guardian or immediate family member to handle a voter's ballot. Election fraud allegations related to Republican ballot harvesting in North Carolina's 9th congressional district election in 2018 resulted in an investigation by the North Carolina State Board of Elections and a subsequent special election. The 2019 North Carolina's 9th congressional district special election was held as a result.
Texas strictly limits collecting ballots, including by restricting eligibility for assistance and limiting assistance only to a voter who requests it and selects the person who will provide it. In 2013, a state bill was passed, making it a misdemeanor to give or receive compensation for collecting mail-in ballots in any election.
On January 13, 2021, the state of Texas arrested political consultant Rachel Rodriguez for election fraud, illegal voting, unlawfully assisting people voting by mail, and unlawfully possessing an official ballot. Rodriguez had been recorded by hidden camera media group Project Veritas discussing unlawful voter tactics and stating, "I could go to prison for what I just did."
In July 2022, Texas prosecuted a volunteer deputy registrar for voter fraud in connection with ballot harvesting. The registrar came under scrutiny after it was discovered that about 275 people in a rural town of 2,500 registered to vote using the same mailing address for a 2018 utility board election. She pled guilty to 26 felony counts of voter fraud and was sentenced to probation.
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no person other than a duly authorized agent of the county clerk and recorder or designated election official may receive more than 10 mail ballots in any election for mailing or delivery. Colo. Rev. Stat § 1-7.5-107(4)(b)(I)(B).
- http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20192020/184671.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- "2014 Georgia Code :: Title 21 – Elections : Chapter 2 – Elections and Primaries Generally : Article 10 – Absentee Voting : § 21-2-385 – Procedure for voting by absentee ballot; advance voting". Justia Law.
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- Bladen County operative at center of NC election fraud investigation indicted, arrested, The Charlotte Observer, Ely Portillo and Jim Morrill, 27 February 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
- "Election Code Chapter 64. Voting Procedures". statutes.capitol.texas.gov. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
- Aguilar, Julián; Wiseman, Todd (22 August 2013). "New Voting Law Aims to Curb Ballot Harvesting". texastribune.org. Archived from the original on 25 May 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
- "Woman Arrested For Alleged Election Fraud, Illegal Voting In Texas". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
- "San Antonio woman in Project Veritas video arrested". 18 July 2022. Archived from the original on 18 July 2022. Retrieved 18 July 2022.
- Cotton, Kyle R. (20 June 2022). "Port Lavaca woman pleas guilty to 2018 voter fraud charges". The Victoria Advocate. Retrieved 18 July 2022.
- Cotton, Kyle (20 June 2022). "Port Lavaca woman pleas guilty to 2018 voter fraud charges". The Victoria Advocate. Retrieved 18 July 2022.
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