Tulsi Gabbard Says Election Fraud a ‘Serious Threat,’ Announces Bill Targeting Ballot Harvesting

September 21, 2020 Updated: September 21, 2020

Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Sept. 19 echoed President Donald Trump’s concerns about the risk of election fraud regarding mail-in ballots, calling it a “serious threat” as she announced her new bipartisan legislation that seeks to outlaw ballot harvesting.

In announcing the legislation, which is being co-sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Gabbard raised concerns about the practice that permits a third party to collect and return multiple ballots, saying the risk presented is not a partisan issue.

“Banning ballot harvesting is not a partisan issue. It’s been used & abused in states like North Carolina and California & is ripe for fraud,” Gabbard said on Twitter Friday.

Gabbard said that she and Davis introduced HR8285, the Election Fraud Prevention Act, “to protect the integrity of our elections and our democracy.”

“The strength of our democracy lies in the integrity of our elections,” Gabbard said. “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.”

The bipartisan bill aims to improve the security of the mail-in ballot process, according to a press release, and seeks to slash federal funding from states that refuse to prohibit ballot harvesting.

Ballot harvesting remains a source of partisan dispute. One of the few recent instances of fraud related to ballot collection happened in North Carolina in 2018, resulting in a congressional election being overturned.

More than half of states allow a third party to collect ballots. And political groups and campaigns from both parties have run ballot-collection programs aimed at boosting turnout and ensuring voters who are older, homebound, disabled, or live far from U.S. postal services can get their ballot returned.

“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,” Gabbard said in a statement. “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.”

The legislation would ensure that voters seeking to turn in their mail-in ballots may only be assisted by an election official or mail carrier acting in their official capacities, as well as family members, household members, or caregivers, the release states.

Davis said, “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.”

“Banning ballot harvesting shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Gabbard introduced similar bills to the House in March 2018 and 2019.

Trump and the GOP contend the rule opens the door for fraud and have fought to restrict it. This has escalated as some governors push forward with plans to send out unsolicited ballots for universal vote-by-mail amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, some of who the Trump administration are challenging in court.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 26 states allow voters to more broadly designate someone to drop off their ballot. About a dozen of those states have imposed limits on how many ballots a person can submit. Minnesota limits a person to collecting and returning three ballots, for example.

California since 2016 has allowed for someone to collect an unlimited number of ballots from voters, though it does bar someone from being paid based on how many ballots they return.

California’s law became the source of controversy and GOP criticism after Democrats used the practice to their advantage in 2018, flipping Republican-held congressional seats after a flood absentee ballots came in before the deadline and were counted after Election Day.

Attorney General William Barr told CNN in an interview that aired on Sept. 2 that the Department of Justice is conducting several “very big” voter fraud investigations in multiple states, but said he did not know the exact number.

At least 32 people were criminally convicted of voter fraud in 2019, according to a database maintained by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

Last month, a California, Norwalk, man was charged with voter fraud after authorities said he voted for his dead mother in three elections.

Ivan Pentchoukov and The Associated Press contributed to this report.