Restricting Ballot Harvesting

The American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center to Protect Voters & Their Voices believes that stopping the practice of unrestricted ballot harvesting is necessary to preserve the integrity of U.S. elections. The United States has developed an election system intended to facilitate secure voting both at the polling place and from elsewhere by absentee ballot, so those who cannot make it to the polls on Election Day due to illness, disability, or some other valid reason may still cast their ballot. However, without guardrails to this system, third parties such as activists, campaign workers, and even candidates themselves can weaponize the absentee voting system through coercive or fraudulent ballot harvesting. As of 2022, the practice of retrieving an absentee ballot from a voter and delivering it on the voter’s behalf is unrestricted in over a dozen states.¹

Allowing ballot harvesting without sensible restrictions on who can return a ballot on behalf of someone else results in unsupervised third parties with an interest in influencing the outcome of the election using coercion, forgery, and outright theft to influence how ballots are cast.² The reason absentee voting has long been the exception and not the rule for U.S. elections is that a voter’s ballot should represent their vote, free from unlawful threats or manipulation. Whether the bad actors harvesting ballots are manipulating the ballots after they have been marked or applying coercive tactics against the voters themselves, ballot harvesting represents a clear threat to election integrity.

Absentee ballots are, in some cases, necessary to give voters who cannot make it to the polls the opportunity to cast their rightful vote on Election Day. To ensure that these ballots actually reflect the will of the voters casting them, and to protect the weight of each vote cast in an election, it is imperative that the rules governing absentee ballot voting prevent intermediaries from compromising the security of voters and their ballots by ballot harvesting.

ACUF’s Center to Protect Voters & Their Voices believes that restrictions on who may return another voter’s absentee ballot and how many absentee ballots a representative may return should be implemented throughout the United States to stop voter fraud and ensure that every American citizen’s vote is effective and protected.

¹National Conference of State Legislators, Table 10: Ballot Collection Laws (January 6, 2022)

²The Heritage Foundation, Election Fraud Cases Database (March 29, 2022)