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Ballot collecting is the gathering and submitting of completed absentee or mail-in voter ballots by third-party individuals, volunteers or workers, rather than submission by the 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 highlight the possibility of increasing the potential for vote misappropriation or fraud. These critics sometimes use the term ballot harvesting to refer to the practice.
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.
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by the new ballot harvesting law in the 2018 midterms, which is unsubstantiated, it did call for the law to be fixed or repealed, saying the law "does open the door to coercion and fraud."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.
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 2018, voters approved a limit of 6 ballots per ballot collector.
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.
Ballot collecting on behalf of others is illegal in Texas, where state law mandates that absentee ballots must be submitted by the voter.[better source needed] In 2013, a state bill was passed, making it a misdemeanor to give or receive compensation for collecting mail-in ballots in any election.
- Phillips, Amber (26 May 2020). "What is ballot 'harvesting,' and why is Trump so against it?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
- Corse, Brent Kendall and Alexa (29 May 2020). "Ballot-Collection Battles, Split by Partisanship, Move Through Courts". The Wall Street Journal.
- Gomez, Luis (4 December 2018). "What is 'ballot harvesting' and how was it used in California elections?". San Diego Tribune. Archived from the original on 4 September 2019.
- Liptak, Adam (6 November 2016). "Arizona Can Ban 'Ballot Harvesting,' Supreme Court Says". nytimes.com. Archived from the original on 2 June 2019.
- Gardiner, Dustin (10 May 2018). "Ban on 'ballot harvesting' in Arizona upheld by judge; Democrats vow to appeal". azcentral.com.
- Oxford, Andrew (27 January 2020). "Federal court says Arizona 'ballot harvesting' law discriminates against minority voters". azcentral.com.
- Blood, Michael R.; Ohlemacher, Stephen (30 November 2018). "Democratic sweep in California raises GOP suspicion". Associated Press.
- O'Reilly, Andrew (3 December 2018). "Ballot harvesting bounty: How Dems apparently used election law change to rout California Republicans". foxnews.com. Archived from the original on 30 November 2019.
- The Times Editorial Board (7 December 2018). "No, Republicans did lose in California because of ballot harvesting. And the practice is concerning". latimes.com. Archived from the original on 4 November 2019.
- Gardner, Amy (14 March 2019). "'We got our clocks cleaned': GOP quietly works to expand ballot harvesting in California while criticizing Democrats for the practice". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
- "Safeguarding Our Democracy with Vote by Mail: A Research Report on the Ability to Vote by Mail in the 2020 General Election" (PDF). Democracy Docket. July 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
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).
- "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.
- "Ballot Collection Laws: All Across the Board > National Conference of State Legislatures". www.ncsl.org.
- Blinder, Alan (30 July 2019). "Election Fraud in North Carolina Leads to New Charges for Republican Operative". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
- North Carolina State Board of Elections (25 February 2019). "State Board unanimously orders new election in 9th Congressional District". ncsbe.gov. Archived from the original on 11 August 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
- 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.
- Firme, Tom (25 April 2019). "How to prevent vote harvesting". pleasantonexpress.com. Archived from the original on 4 June 2019.
- 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.