Race shines light on ‘ballot harvesting’
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - An investigation into whether political operatives in North Carolina illegally collected and possibly stole absentee ballots in a still-undecided congressional race has drawn attention to a widespread but littleknown political tool called ballot harvesting.
It’s a practice long used by special-interest groups and both major political parties that is viewed either as a voter service that boosts turnout or a nefarious activity that subjects voters to intimidation and makes elections vulnerable to fraud.
The groups rely on data showing which voters requested absentee ballots but have not turned them in. They then go door-to-door and offer to collect and turn in those ballots for the voters - often dozens or hundreds at a time. Some place ballot-collection boxes in highconcentration voter areas, such as college campuses, and take the ballots to election offices when the boxes are full.
In North Carolina, election officials are investigating whether Republican political operatives harvested ballots in parts of the 9th Congressional District with high numbers of Democratic voters and then did not turn them in to the local elections office. Ballot harvesting is illegal under state law, which allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.
The investigation is focusing on areas in the district where an unusually high number of absentee ballots were not returned.