Our nation should follow Alabama's lead in safeguarding that only the voter may return his or her ballot, but until they do, there needs to be a concerted effort to educate the American voter of what ballot harvesting really is, for only sunlight will put an end to this dark and vulnerable practice. (Image source: iStock)
Congratulations to Alabama and Ballotpedia for their invaluable role in protecting our democracy.
In the age of Covid, with absentee voting now widespread, only one state, Alabama, has safeguards that "explicitly allowed only the voters to return their ballot", to prevent third parties and ballot harvesters from making your vote disappear.
If you are unable to vote in person, or if you decide to vote with an absentee ballot, mail your ballot in a sealed envelope to your local Board of Elections Office (Absentee Vote Dept) -- and please mail it yourself.
In the State of Alabama, they have figured out how to keep your vote from being stolen when a "ballot bandit" knocks on your door. Ballot harvesting has been defined as "the practice in which political operatives collect absentee ballots from voters' homes and drop them off at a polling place or election office." It might sound harmless, even "helpful," but unfortunately it has been subject to vast abuse. So if there is a knock on your door by unlicensed vote harvesters, shut and bolt the door and grab your copy of the Constitution.
While, according to the invaluable Ballotpedia, as many as 24 states have no safeguards from ballot harvesting professionals, who are paid to "walk your vote" to the ballot box, Alabama has put into place regulations that permit only the voter to submit an absentee ballot; no middle man is permitted to handle your vote. Thirteen states do not specify how your ballot may find its way to a ballot box -- or simply "disappear." How can you keep your vote from "disappearing"? Do not ever hand your ballot to a stranger to deliver for you. Mail or deliver your absentee ballot to the election office yourself.
To protect our Democracy and prevent its collapse, a plan of action, state by state, is needed immediately, now, for the upcoming election on November 8, 2022 and for the next presidential election in 2024.
Some states have sought to license ballot harvesting, or to require those engaged in the practice to be registered with the respective state or local municipality. Regrettably, they have been told by the courts that their legislation is flawed and efforts to regulate the practice are illegal.
What Alabama recognized was that the very practice of ballot harvesting was unraveling our democracy, and they moved to forbid it altogether. They said, in essence, that no one should handle your vote from the time you make a decision on which candidate you support and the Board of Elections counting that ballot.
Alabama was insightful and wise: they know that those paying ballot harvesters are not intent on ensuring everyone votes but, rather, seeking to present only those votes that can sway an election their way.
Ballot harvesters, those getting paid to collect votes, can always toss an "inconvenient" ballot in the trash, intimidate voters -- such as employees or the residents of nursing homes. Ballot harvesters have the means to upend our democracy and shatter the founding American principle of "one man – one vote." Our nation should follow Alabama's lead in safeguarding that only the voter may return his or her ballot, but until they do, there needs to be a concerted effort to educate the American voter of what ballot harvesting really is, for only sunlight will put an end to this dark and vulnerable practice.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.