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.
“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."
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.
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.”
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.