- Ballot harvesting undermines the democratic process and leads to multiple forms of absentee ballot fraud.
- Ballot harvesters and their allies seek to increase absentee-by-mail voting in order to get more ballots available for harvesting.
- Ballot harvesting advocates use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to impose it on North Carolina and the nation.
Let me share a story of a young man, let’s call him “Bob.” Bob likes to play sports and computer games and is a secret fan of Mexican telenovelas. However, he is not interested in politics and has never voted. So, he was surprised to find two ballots in his mailbox yesterday, one for him and one for someone who used to live in his apartment. He doesn’t even remember registering to vote. He tossed them onto the pile of junk mail and coupons and forgot all about it. Then this evening he heard a knock on his door. It was a woman offering a “new service” picking up the ballots in his apartment:
“Yeah, we’re offering this new service, but only to, like, people who are supporting the Democratic party. It’s a service; I’m just trying to pick up your ballot and show you how to do it if you don’t know.”
So, does Bob help the nice lady by marking the ballot he never asked for, and doesn’t care about now, in the way that she wants? What about that other ballot?
While Bob’s situation may seem farfetched, there are people working hard right now to make that scenario a reality nationwide.
Harvesting ballots to win power
Ballot harvesting, the collecting of ballots from registered voters by political operatives, is at the heart of progressives’ election plans. While ballot harvesting advocates claim that they only want to help people vote, the practice opens the way to election fraud.
Steven F. Huefner, a law professor from Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, noted four types of fraud that can happen when political operatives “help” people by collecting their ballots.
- Ballot harvesters can exert improper influence on voters while the voters are completing their ballots.
- Ballot harvesters can collect ballots in unsealed envelopes, or open sealed envelopes, and either alter votes or fill in blank portions of under-voted ballots (those in which the voter did not vote in some races).
- Ballot harvesters can collect unfilled ballots and fill them in themselves.
- Ballot harvesters can destroy or discard ballots from those whom they know or believe voted for the “wrong” candidate.
All those forms of fraud undermine the democratic process and it is nearly impossible for officials to detect the first three of them.
Of course, North Carolinians are sadly familiar with absentee ballot fraud, but other states have also faced that problem. Many are coming to recognize that the mail-in ballot has become “the tool of choice for those who are engaging in election fraud.”
Getting ballots into homes to be harvested
Of course, you cannot harvest a ballot if you cannot get access to it. So, ballot harvesting advocates also encourage systems that get ballots into homes and away from the supervision of election officials. To that end, they advocate for anything that will get ballots where they can be harvested.
That is why Hillary Clinton’s former lawyer, Marc Elias, has sued North Carolina to try to overturn absentee ballot reforms passed last year. His main concern is that the law, which passed the General Assembly with only one dissenting vote, prevents political operatives from prefilling absentee ballot request forms, getting their targets to sign them, and submitting them in mass to the local board of elections. Former State Board of Elections (SBE) Executive Director Gary Bartlett recognized that it is a crucial element of a ballot harvesting operation:
Bartlett said the abuse of absentee ballots usually follows this pattern: A team of two targets elderly or low-income voters and has them apply for an absentee ballot. Once the ballot arrives, they may help the voters fill it out. They sign as the two necessary witnesses and offer to mail it. If the voter marks a choice that’s not the team’s candidate, it’s not mailed.
Elias knows this process because he represented Dan McCready during the SBE 9th District absentee ballot fraud investigation last year. However, he pretended to be ignorant of ballot harvesting operations that benefitted his boss.
Even better for ballot harvesting advocates would be universal vote-by-mail. The left-leaning ProPublica notes that there is a “bipartisan consensus that mail-in ballots are the form of voting most vulnerable to fraud.” While Washington state has some safeguards in its all-mail voting system, such as signature verification and a prohibition of ballot harvesting, they have had incidents of mail ballot fraud to the point where their secretary of state has to “remind people to not give a ballot to a stranger.”
Seeking systematic ballot harvesting
The goal for the ballot harvesting advocates is a system where people disinterested in the governing process or researching candidates have ballots sent directly to their homes, and ballots are then harvested by political operatives.
But surely nobody could be so nefarious as to advocate for such a system? Not only are there people who do so, but U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also attempted to use the coronavirus threat as blackmail to force the imposition of such a system nationwide:
Pelosi’s coronavirus plan includes mandatory voting by mail… Pelosi’s plan would smash key safeguards to clean elections. Not only would the bill bar states from requiring notarization or witness signatures on absentee ballots, it would ban any type of ID requirement. Moreover, it would require states to allow completed absentee ballots to be picked up by candidates, political consultants, and party activists (ballot harvesting).
Sadly, but not completely unexpected, there are elements of that system in the North Carolina Democratic Party’s coronavirus recommendations.
In a world where ballot harvesting is considered normal, both major parties will cultivate their own pools of politically disinterested people from whom they will regularly harvest ballots during each election. In areas where the parties are relatively evenly matched, the party that can cultivate a larger pool of people willing to hand their ballots over to ballot harvesters will win.
Such a system makes elections less a matter of free citizens choosing if to vote and for whom to vote for, and more a matter of turning ballots into cogs in political machines. To make North Carolina elections more secure, we must fight to make sure that such a system is not imposed here.