Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Ballot harvesting is a common practice in some states where volunteers or workers collect absentee or mail-in voter ballots. These ballots oft-times take weeks to be counted after elections.
In Florida, the harvesters are known as ‘boleteros, in Texas as ‘politiqueros.’ Until last year it was common in 27 states of our union. Of those states, only 16 regulate ballot harvesting.
Colorado voters mail in their ballots and the state allows third parties to gather up to 10 ballots. Georgia allows third party gathering for the disabled only. In July this year, Georgia passed a law allowing ‘minor’ indiscretions like mismarked envelopes because over 7,000 mail-in ballots had been rejected in the presidential election. Many know these methods are rife for misuse. After contested mid-term elections of 2018, Arizona, North Carolina and Montana have banned it.
So with such a wide approach from state to state, how much or how little voter fraud is present? Ballotpedia cites studies with both views: According to Brennan Center for Justice there are few incidents. Heritage Foundation believes it is a big problem.
California heads of state like Alex Padilla love it. “In California, we’re expanding opportunities for eligible citizens to register to vote and for registered voters to cast their ballot. These opportunities include in-person early voting, the option to vote-by-mail, and giving voters the power to decide who they most trust to return their vote-by-mail ballot for them if they so choose. As other states are rolling back voting rights, California is modernizing our elections and making it easier for all eligible citizens to participate.”
But California’s ballot harvesting practice is facing harsh inspection after the 2018 midterms when Republican candidates in the state saw their election day leads crumble as Democratic votes were later counted in the weeks following.
Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz voices the concerns of many conservatives. He’s convinced ballot harvesting made the difference in California. Studies of absentee voters nationally have always reflected the popular vote, which in 2018 leaned slightly to the right. But when ballot harvesting was deployed in California, the late ballots broke heavily for Democrats.
It’s a terrible practice,” says former Arizona Republican Party chairman Robert Graham, who backed the law to ban it in his state. “People should be responsible for their own votes.” The Arizona law made it a felony. Challenged in federal court, then blocked by an appeals court, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and allowed the law to be enforced.
Here is some of the frustration voiced by California conservatives:
Carol Gray, San Jose, CA: As a Republican voter, I have been disenfranchised by the California law that prevented a Republican candidate from appearing on the November ballot. In the midterm elections, I had a choice between Nancy Pelosi and another Democrat for Congress. The Republican Party wasn’t permitted a candidate on the ballot because of changes to election laws made by the Democratic Party in charge of this state. If we truly want to save American democracy, we would outlaw this practice and give voters back their voice.
Martin Waldinger, Scottsdale, AZ: I was an election judge for several elections in Southern California a few years back. As judges, we were told that we could not ask for any identification from anyone appearing at the poll. Numerous times we knew that the voters were not who they said they were but we could not stop their vote. Since I grew up in Iowa, where there was election integrity, I was appalled at what I witnessed. California has a broken system and with vote harvesting it is only getting worse.
In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece…
“The first key to facilitating election fraud is getting names on the voter registration list. The second key is controlling the votes cast in as many of those names as possible. Automatically registering persons regardless of any expression of interest is a significant step to empower fraud. Next, automatically mailing ballots to all who are registered substantially increases the opportunity. Finally, allowing any person to show up at homes and collect ballots essentially guarantees that fraud will occur.
Under California’s election laws, registration is automatic, any ballot can be marked in unknown circumstances and any interested person can collect and deliver it…”
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