As the 2024 election cycle draws near, Republicans are starting to realize that ballot harvesting has become an integral and necessary part of any successful election strategy.
However, opinions on the decision to give in and use ballot harvesting are mixed.
While campaigns are already well underway, the much anticipated 2024 presidential election cycle won’t officially begin until the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 22, 2024. But while Super Tuesday is only tentatively scheduled to take place on March 5 of next year, debates on the pros and cons of ballot harvesting and mail-in ballots have already begun.
Republicans have spent years decrying the practice of mail-in ballots and ballot harvesting, but they are now realizing that, in order to win, they have to play.
Ballot harvesting is a process by which third-parties can collect completed mail-in ballots from voters and deliver them in bulk to a drop box or local elections office.
Although every state allows absentee voting, the rules and guidelines in each state vary greatly.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 31 states allow voters to authorize someone else to return their ballot on their behalf. Of those, nine limit the number of ballots an authorized person can return, and four limit the amount of time those ballots can remain in the authorized person’s custody before being returned.
Alabama has a law on the books that prohibits anyone except the voter from returning their ballot, and in Mississippi, several civil rights organizations are suing over a recent state law that would ban ballot harvesting.
Data compiled by USA Facts in 2021 shows that three states—Florida, Georgia, and Iowa—decreased the number of ballot drop boxes allowed per county and established regulations requiring drop boxes to be constantly monitored by county election officials. Conversely, Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia passed laws that increased the number of drop box locations.
On Jan. 4, 2021, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced H.R. 1 in the House of Representatives. The measure, labeled by Democrats as the “For the People Act,” would have prohibited states from banning ballot harvesting. While it did pass the then-Democrat controlled House, a Republican filibuster killed the measure. Sarbanes made a similar effort in 2019. Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the measure from reaching the Senate floor.
Twelve states limit the number of ballots a third party may return on behalf of other voters.
In 2022, Dinesh D’Souza released a documentary called “2000 Mules,” alleging that 2,000 individuals were hired by unknown nonprofits to collect ballots illegally and deliver them to drop boxes in key swing states ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
By the Numbers
To understand the power of ballot harvesting and mail-in ballots in an election, one must look at the numbers.
A November 2020 study released by Pew Research showed that 54 percent of voters cast their ballots in person during the November 2020 presidential election, compared with 46 percent who voted by mail-in or absentee ballot. Only 27 percent said they voted in person on Election Day, and an equal amount said they voted by way of in-person early voting.
While 37 percent of former President Donald Trump’s voters cast their ballots in person on Election Day, only 17 percent of Biden voters did the same.
Where 30 percent of Trump supporters voted early, only 24 percent of Biden’s voters cast ballots in person before Election Day.
Most noteworthy, while 32 percent of Trump supporters voted by way of mail-in or absentee ballot, more than half of Biden’s voters, 58 percent, cast their ballots through the mail-in method.
Polling data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in April 2021 showed that 69 percent of voters in the 2020 presidential election voted by mail and/or early voting, making it the “highest rate of nontraditional voting for a presidential election” recorded.
For perspective, 40 percent of Americans used mail-in ballots during the presidential election in 2016.
‘A Huge Mistake’
After years of criticizing ballot harvesting and a push toward mail-in ballots, some Republicans are beginning to reconsider their party’s unbending resistance to both practices.
Through a Nov. 29, 2022, message on Truth Social, Trump wrote in all capital letters, “YOU CAN NEVER HAVE FAIR & FREE ELECTIONS WITH MAIL-IN BALLOTS — NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. WON’T AND CAN’T HAPPEN!!!”
Three months later in a February fundraising email, Trump asked supporters to chip in for his “ballot harvesting fund,” saying, “Either we ballot harvest where we can, or you can say goodbye to America!”…