Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has introduced a bill aimed at putting an end to the practice of ballot harvesting ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
How we got here: Ballot harvesting involves a law that allows third parties to collect and deliver ballots in some states. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 26 U.S. states allow a voter to designate someone else to return their ballot for them. In some of these states, there are restrictions on who can return voters’ ballots, such as family members, volunteers, or campaign workers. There are also states where there are no restrictions on who can return a ballot on someone else’s behalf, allowing third-party organizations to collect them as long as the operatives are not paid based on the number of ballots they deliver.
The practice has raised concerns, mostly among Republicans, about voter fraud as more citizens are expected to vote by mail in this election.
The bill, called the Election Fraud Prevention Act, was put forward by Gabbard and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). It would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and ban payments to states that allow ballot harvesting. The bill would only allow election officials, mail carriers, family members, and caregivers of the voters to handle their ballots.
What they’re saying: “The strength of our democracy lies in the integrity of our elections. Whether in the midst of a pandemic where mail-in voting is likely to drastically increase, or in a normal election, no one should get in between a voter and the ballot box,” Gabbard said in a statement.
“While some states have prohibited vote harvesting, many states lack any regulations that would stop third-parties from fraudulently collecting and mishandling ballots as has occurred in recent elections. Our bipartisan bill incentivizes states to take action and prevent any political parties or any third-party special interest groups from interfering with our sacred right to vote,” she added.
Banning ballot harvesting is not a partisan issue. It’s been used & abused in states like North Carolina and California & is ripe for fraud.
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) September 18, 2020
“Banning ballot harvesting shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” said Davis. “Allowing any individual, including political operatives, to pick up multiple voters’ ballots and deliver them to a polling location undermines the integrity of our elections. We’ve seen ballot harvesting widely used in states like California and a recent court case in North Carolina outlined the clear opportunities for fraud and coercion with the ballot harvesting process. This bipartisan bill will encourage states to ban this process that is ripe for fraud and is a major threat to the integrity of our elections.”
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