Who Benefits from Ballot Harvesting?
| All About Ballot Harvesting |
Ballot harvesting refers to the practice of collecting and delivering completed absentee or mail-in ballots on behalf of voters. In recent years, ballot harvesting has become a hotter issue in American politics, with some rightly arguing that it can lead to voter fraud. Others insisted that it was a necessary way to ensure that every vote is counted during the lockdown years of the Covid-19 pandemic, but now, predictably, they’re trying to make what were temporary measures permanent in our election systems.
The process of ballot harvesting typically involves a designated individual or group who collects completed ballots from voters and delivers them to the appropriate election officials. This is often done in situations where voters are unable or unwilling to deliver their own ballots, such as in the case of elderly or disabled individuals, or those who live in remote areas. The practice is legal in some states, but not in others and there are variations from state to state on who can collect how many ballots.
Ballot harvesting can and has been used to commit voter fraud, by allowing individuals to collect and submit ballots on behalf of others without their consent, such as in the case of Ike Brown’s corrupt political machine in Mississippi. Ballot harvesting can lead to a situation where ballots are stolen, altered, or discarded, in order to influence the outcome of an election. For example, a ballot harvester might collect a large number of ballots from a particular area or demographic group, and then selectively submit only those ballots that support a particular candidate or party.
Despite the risks and controversies, ballot harvesting remains legal in many states, and continues to be used as a way to increase voter turnout (or ballot turnout at any rate). Supporters argue that the practice is an essential way to ensure that individuals who face barriers to accessing the ballot box, such as those who are elderly, disabled, or live in remote areas, are able to participate in the democratic process. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the practice is open to abuse, and can be used to commit voter fraud.
As the debate over ballot harvesting continues, it is important for policymakers and election officials to carefully consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of the practice, and to develop policies and procedures that ensure that every vote is counted in a fair and transparent manner. This should involve implementing measures to prevent voter fraud and protect the integrity of the electoral process, while also ensuring that individuals who face barriers to accessing the ballot box are able to participate fully in our democracy.
Most states have some laws governing the practice of ballot harvesting. Only one state forbids it entirely: In Alabama, only the voter himself may bring his ballot in.
In Minnesota, a person delivering a ballot on behalf of another is called an “agent,” and one person is only legally permitted to serve as an agent for up to three voters in an election. Attempting to deliver more than three ballots for others would therefore constitute illegal ballot harvesting, but when using an unmonitored ballot drop box, who could ever tell? The limit is unenforceable.
In all, twenty-five states allow someone else, appointed by a voter to return a ballot for the voter. Eleven states restrict who may return ballots to people with specific roles or relationships to the voter, such as family members or care-givers.
Thirteen states don’t have any particular statutes about ballot harvesting (yet), but there are certainly reasons to restrict the practice. Here are some examples of what can (and does) go wrong:
In the course of an investigation into illegal ballot harvesting in Minnesota’s 2020 primary elections, Muse Mohamud Mohamed of Minneapolis ended up convicted on two counts of making false statements to a grand jury. Mohamed had told the grand jury that he obtained absentee ballots on behalf of voters who then filled them out before he returned them, but federal prosecutors said that was a lie and that none of the people named on the absentee ballot envelopes actually gave him any ballots to return.
Mohamed was just one member of a suspected ring of illegal ballot harvesters under investigation, but is the only one from that group convicted to date.
Abdihakim Amin Essa, a non-citizen living in Minneapolis was charged with 13 counts of felony voter fraud occurring ahead of the 2018 elections, after submitting 13 absentee ballots which he signed with his or his father’s name. In a plea deal, he pled guilty to four counts of voter fraud and was convicted.
In 2020, a Texas mayoral candidate named Zul Mirza Mohamed and three others were arrested and charged with over 100 counts of voter fraud related to a scheme involving illegal ballot harvesting.
Just a year prior, another Texas mayor, Richard Molina and his wife, Dalia were charged with voter fraud related to ballot harvesting and falsifying addresses in the 2017 municipal election. His vote harvesting scheme involved the participation of paid campaign workers, among others. In all, eighteen people were charged. Molina had won the election, unseating long-time Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia by just 1,240 votes.
A North Carolina political operative who worked with both Republicans and Democrats was indicted on charges of absentee ballot fraud and other crimes related to a scheme involving illegal ballot harvesting in the 2016 and 2018 elections. Leslie McCrae Dowless was accused of hiring an army of addicts he called his “pillheads” to illegally collect and submit hundreds of absentee ballots in a closely contested 2018 congressional race that ultimately wound up overturned after the fraud was discovered.
This is a tiny sampling of numerous examples and one must bear in mind that it’s extremely difficult to actually catch fraudulent ballot harvesting, so follows that for every person caught, many many more got away with it.
Because ballot harvesting has proven so successful for Democrat political operations in recent years, we can be sure it’s a tactic that will only grow from here. Between early voting and ballot harvesting, it’s already the case in many jurisdictions that the majority of ballots counted are received by officials prior to Election Day. In-Person voting is likely to account for a smaller and smaller percentage of the total, to a point, where if your candidate hasn’t already comfortably won the race with ballots collected BEFORE Election Day, turning it around at the polls becomes unlikely.
Ballot harvesting has the potential to become a lawless free-for-all if not carefully considered and legislated. It’s potential for fraud is vast – almost limitless – and there is no real advantage to an individual voter who could just as easily drop an absentee ballot into a mailbox. The only advantage to be found with ballot harvesting is to the party or candidate who most effectively uses the tactic.
*** Learn more about ballot harvesting and so much more in Dan McGrath’s new book, The Voter Fraud Manual. ***