Republicans Embrace Ballot Harvesting for 2024, Some Foresee Legal Battles

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Sep 23, 2023 - 09:05 PM

Authored by Patricia Tolson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

After years of condemning ballot harvesting and early voting, Republicans are switching course for 2024 and embracing both policies wholeheartedly. The results, experts say, can bear good and bad consequences. Some foresee legal challenges.

"Ballot harvesting" is a practice where third-party individuals or organizations collect completed mail-in ballots and deliver them to election officials on a voter's behalf.

Filing boxes sit off to the side at an absentee ballot processing room at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Ga., on Nov. 2, 2020. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Hans von Spakovsky—Election Law Reform Initiative Manager and Senior Fellow at The Heritage—prefers to call the practice "Ballot Trafficking."

"You play by the rules that are in place wherever you are but that doesn't mean that you allow the status quo to stay that way," Mr. von Spakovsky told The Epoch Times.

He also suggested that the GOP's decision to play the ballot harvesting game should not stop voters from trying to convince their state legislators "to change the rules to get rid of ballot trafficking and allowing third-party strangers to go pick up a voter's ballot because the risks in allowing that are too great."

Heritage Foundation Election Law Reform Initiative Hans von Spakovsk at a Washington, D.C. event in October 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

"I don't see anything wrong with taking advantage of the rule if that's the rule in place but you should try to continue to change it," he said.

Since 1988, The Heritage Foundation's Election Fraud Database has documented over 200 cases of proven fraudulent use of absentee ballots. The largest number of confirmed mail-in ballot fraud cases, 36, occurred in 2022.

Ultimately, Mr. von Spakovsky isn't convinced that having both sides harvesting ballots will give either party an advantage.

"If one party takes advantage of the rules like that and the other doesn't then it might give that party a step up," he said. "But if both parties are taking advantage, I'm not quite sure how it would benefit one party or the other."

Chasing Ballots

By joining the ballot harvesting game in 2024, Sharon Demers sees the potential for both bad and good outcomes.

For the bad, she fears that, just as Republicans have spent years investigating and suing over alleged cases of voter fraud by Democrat operatives, Democrats will do the same. This, she warns, will cause the ever-lengthening election cycle to be followed by an equally protracted litigation season.

For the good, she believes it will help lead to victories that were lost simply because they didn't keep up with Democrats.

Ms. Demers, a Republican state committeewoman for Flagler County, noted that ballot harvesting is banned in the Sunshine State.

Sharon Demers, Republican State Committee Woman for Flagler County, drops her ballot in a drop box during the 2022 midterm elections in Flagler County, Florida (Courtesy of Susan Demers).

"You can knock on someone's door and encourage them to return their vote-by-mail ballot but they can't collect those ballots in Florida and deliver them to the Supervisor of Elections or a drop box," Ms. Demers explained.

"But if another state allows them to do this, we should do it. If it's legal," she said. "But if it's not legal Republicans shouldn't do it."

She also advised that Florida is open to what is called "chasing ballots."

Democrats are already chasing ballots, too.

According to NGP VAN, "the leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns," "ballot chasing" is a campaign to encourage voters to take advantage of their state's early voting schedule in order to "bank votes early" during an election cycle. Organizers can use voter rolls to locate electors who live near early voting locations. By way of phone banks, canvassing, or other outreach programs, organizers can encourage them to get out and cast their ballots.

As Ms. Demers noted, Democrats are known for their well-organized efforts of deploying organizers to pick people up in buses and vans to physically drive them to the polls.

"Those are things Republicans have been lazy about in some areas of the country, not getting out the vote and driving the vote, especially with the young people," she said, noting how younger voters get most of their information from social media.

"They aren't involved in politics and that's a group Republicans in general have ignored," she said.

'We Don't Have a Choice'

As founder of the America First P.A.C.T., Corey Gibson hopes to energize the youth the GOP has ignored.

"We have two choices," he told The Epoch Times. "Either we participate or we allow Democrats to thrive and win elections because they are ballot harvesting and we're not."

As Mr. Gibson told The Epoch Times in June, he has already assembled an "army of social media influencers."

"We're the first national ballot harvesting project," he said.

While also concerned that the GOP's new ballot harvesting endeavor could become "a legal vortex of doom," he said "the only thing we can do as conservatives is to pursue this in the most honest and transparent way possible so it's hard to look at our efforts and find shady business that makes it indefensible.

"The only other choice is to allow Democrats to take advantage of this tool and not participate out of stubbornness."

However, just as Mr. von Spakovsky suggested, Mr. Gibson said, "We want to ballot harvest until we can make it illegal to ballot harvest."

"The goal of conservatives is to have free and fair elections. Full stop. Period," he explained, saying conservatives "would rather lose an election fairly than to win by cheating."

"It's time for us to figure out if we want to win elections fairly or sit back and lose just because we're too stubborn and keep saying we don't believe in ballot harvesting," he said.

Mr. Gibson's greatest wish right now is that "the party structure would allow for a more unified, strategic approach on anything," because right now, "it's a hodge-podge of disagreeing tribes."

"For this to truly be effective," he said the GOP must have "good strategic leadership to initiate these programs."

'That's something Democrats do well that we don't," he said.

'It Will Be Very Messy'

Richard Frederick is the State Chair for RETHINK! GOP, an organization dedicated to "empowering voters through ballot harvesting, early voting programs and education."

For the past six or seven months he's been on the phone with voters from California to Nevada who are confused by the GOP's sudden switch to advocating practices they've condemned for years.

For years we had top people in the GOP screaming that 'this was illegal, you shouldn't be doing it, and the Democrats are doing things that are fraudulent,'" Mr. Frederick told The Epoch Times. "Now they're flipping and saying you have to vote early, you have to ballot harvest. So it's been very confusing to their voters."

Curiously though, he also says most of the voters he speaks with never understood why the GOP was so opposed to those practices in the first place.

"They never saw it as illegal. You had Trump, DeSantis, McDaniel, and other public figures saying it's illegal, and it wasn't illegal," he said. "Here in Nevada, we lost a ton of seats because of that. The Party shot themselves in the foot and the Democrats sat back and loved every minute of it because they knew they didn't have to worry about Republicans ballot harvesting."

Mr. Frederick then recalled how the GOP's opposition to early voting also cost Republicans in Nevada because the day before election day in 2020, they got "about a foot of snow."

"Most people didn't go out and vote. So all of those Democrats who mailed in their votes had the jump on everybody," he said.

He also believes the GOP will likely face endless lawsuits after "election season" simply because they aren't experienced with ballot harvesting.

While organizations like RETHINK! GOP, Turning Point USA, and American Majority "are moving forward with this on their own," he doesn't believe the GOP as an entity "will actuality do the things that need to be done simply because they don't know how."

"What will follow will be messy. It will be very messy, and it will drag on," he predicted. "While we were complaining that it took 45 days to get results in some states after the 2020 election, I think this time around it's going to be even longer.

By the Numbers

The National Conference of State Legislators shows that 31 states authorize someone other than the voter to return a ballot for them.

Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have essentially banned ballot harvesting in their states by limiting the number of ballots an individual may deliver on a voter's behalf. Florida and Louisiana only allow a family member to deliver a ballot on a voter's behalf. Oklahoma "prohibits ballot harvesting entirely.

Six months ahead of the November 2020 election, a Gallop poll showed that 64 percent of Americans favored the idea of mail-in ballots. Stark differences, however, were seen among voters according to their political affiliation. While 83 percent of Democrats expressed support for mail-in ballots only 40 percent of Republicans expressed the same sentiment. Among independents, 68 showed support.

Polling conducted by the Honest Elections Project in July and provided exclusively to The Federalist showed that 76 percent of voters surveyed believe “voting in person is better than voting by mail.” A majority, 73 percent, also “reject automatically sending ballots without a voter’s request,” and 74 percent said ballot harvesting “should be illegal.”