The following excerpts are from the upcoming book ” The American Citizens Handbook on Immigration” a candid conversation with a concerned citizen”available the end of August.
Ballot harvesting” is political jargon for a practice in which organized workers or volunteers collect absentee ballots from certain voters and drop them off at a polling place or election office. Coined by California Republicans, the term carries a negative connotation to suggest improprieties and even election fraud. The conservative site Townhall.com called it the California Democrats’ “latest election-stealing tool.” The San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board took a different view, calling it “a sinister-sounding way of saying their opponents turned out more votes than they did” in one recent editorial
In 2016, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB1921, which legalized the so-called practice of “ballot harvesting.” Previously, only a family member or someone living in the same household was permitted to drop off mail ballots for a voter, but the new law allowed anyone – including political operatives – to collect and return them for a voter.
The practice is so common, harvesters even have their own region-specific names. In Florida, they’re known as “boleteros.” In Texas, they’re called “politiqueras.”
In the Article from The Federalist, December 14th, 2018 How Ballot-Harvesting Became The New Way To Steal An Election, Eric Eggers
Brings these 3 points home.
*In Orange County, an estimated 250,000 harvested ballots were reportedly dropped off on Election Day alone. County Republican Chairman Fred Whitaker claimed the 2016 law “directly caused the switch from being ahead on election night to losing two weeks later.”
*One interaction caught by a Santa Clarita family’s doorbell camera suggested how harvesting can work in practice. A harvester, identifying herself as Lulu, asks for Brandi, and says she is there to collect her ballot, explaining that there is “this new service, but only to, like, people who are supporting the Democratic Party.”
* In Missouri, Democratic state Rep. Penny Hubbard, a member of a St. Louis political dynasty known for ballot harvesting, was challenged and ultimately ousted in 2016 by progressive Bruce Franks, a protester in the Ferguson unrest. Absentee-ballot handling irregularities had handed her a delayed 90-vote win, even though Franks won 53 percent of the vote on Election Day.
Also,for example, the race between former Republican Rep. David Valadao and Democrat T. J. Cox in California’s rural 21st district. When polls closed, Valadao led Cox by 6,000 votes — or 8 percent. That margin was wide enough for media outlets to call the race for Valadao.
However, late ballots delivered by third-party groups broke so heavily for Cox that he ultimately eked out an 843-vote victory. The results after ballot harvesting were very different from the polling before the race and since. In a July 2019 NRCC survey, Cox was polling at just 36 percent, while 52 percent said they would support “a potential Republican challenger.” Valadao has since filed for a rematch.
House speaker Paul Ryan had a interesting take on the some California midterm elections. see the following taken from Fox News article entitled Ballot Harvesting Bounty: How Dems apparently used the election law change to rout California Republicans
December 3rd, 2018
Following the drubbing they took in the midterms, some Republican leaders in Washington have expressed confusion over what happened in California.
We were only down 26 seats (nationally) the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race,” outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., told the Washington Post. “Point being, when you have candidates that win the absentee ballot vote, win the day of the vote, and then lose three weeks later because of provisionals, that’s really bizarre.”
Ryan added: “When you win the absentee ballots and you win the in-person vote, where I come from, you win the election…I’m not saying there’s anything nefarious about it, because I just don’t know, but we believed we were up about six seats in California the night of the election, now I think we lost just about every single one of those.”
I truly believe if the Citizens in this country were aware of the manipulation and deceit involved with this practice, they would halt it on a heartbeat.
I have chosen the next article to finish this segment, I felt it tells the story the best. Hope you agree.
The Heritage Foundation
Integrity Vote Harvesting: A Recipe for Intimidation, Coercion, and Election Fraud- October 18th, 2019
The 27 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized vote (or ballot) harvesting are handing party activists, campaign managers, consultants, and other political guns-for-hire with a vested political or monetary interest in winning an election the ability to manipulate the outcome through intimidation and coercion of voters, or the outright theft and forgery of their ballots. It is a dangerous and foolish public policy that threatens the integrity of elections. It should not be implemented by state legislatures—and should be prohibited in the states that currently allow it.
Banning vote harvesting has been upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Arizona is one of the states that prohibits anyone other than a voter, a caregiver, or a member of a voter’s family or household to deliver an absentee ballot. In a lawsuit challenging that prohibition, the court rejected that challenge and held that the Arizona law was not pre-empted by federal laws regulating the U.S. Postal Service; did not violate the First Amendment rights of the vote harvester to engage in political speech; and is not an unconstitutionally vague criminal statute.
But 27 states and the District of Columbia expressly allow vote harvesting by permitting someone other than the voter or a member of her family—which includes party activists, campaign managers, and consultants—to pick up a completed absentee ballot from the voter and deliver it to election officials. Twelve of these states “limit the number of ballots an agent or designee may return,” but there is no information available on whether that limitation is actually enforced.
The 12 states are Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
The differing approaches to the return of absentee ballots can be seen in the contrast between North Carolina and California. In addition to the voter, North Carolina only allows “a voter’s near relative or the voter’s verifiable legal guardian” to return an absentee ballot.
California had a similar law, but amended it in 2016, effective in the 2018 election.
Prior to the change, only the relatives of a voter or someone living in the same household could return an absentee ballot. But California eliminated that limitation and now allows a voter to “designate any person to return the ballot.”
A Recipe for Intimidation, Coercion, and Fraud
Allowing individuals other than the voter or his immediate family to handle absentee ballots is a recipe for mischief and wrongdoing in the election context. Neither voters nor election officials have the means of verifying that the secrecy of the ballot has not been compromised or that the ballot submitted in the voter’s name by a third party actually contains votes for the voter’s intended candidates and was not fraudulently changed by the vote harvester.
It also gives campaign and party intermediaries the opportunity to interact with voters while they are casting a ballot out of sight of, and without any supervision by, election officials. Thus, there is no one present to ensure that voters are not being coerced, intimidated, or paid for a vote. As a report about illegal vote harvesting in Texas says, “away from on-site monitors and electioneering restrictions at traditional polling places,” the law that prohibits anyone from telling voters how to vote or marking their ballot without consent “is often honored in the breach.”
The Heritage Foundation’s database of proven instances of election fraud from around the country contains cases illustrating this coercion problem. That includes the case against the former mayor of Eatonville, Florida, Anthony Grant, who was convicted of voter fraud in 2017, including coercing absentee voters to cast ballots for him. It was the absentee ballots that won the election for him.
Another involved the former mayor of Martin, Kentucky, Ruth Robinson, who (along with her husband and son) was convicted of voter fraud in 2014 for, among other things, threatening and intimidating poor and disabled citizens into casting absentee ballots for Robinson, including ballots that the Robinsons had already filled out.
Additionally, given the very sophisticated campaign data that are available on the voting history and campaign contributions of registered voters, it would not be difficult to send harvesters into neighborhoods in which voters are known to be highly likely to vote for an opposition candidate. The harvesters could pick up those absentee ballots and make sure they are discarded—and not delivered to election officials.
Unless a voter checks with election officials after the election to verify that his or her ballot was received, the voter would never know what happened. It seems highly unlikely that the vast majority of absentee voters, particularly the elderly, the infirm, or the disabled, would engage in such verification. Even if they do, they may not be able to identify which campaign operative picked up their ballot or what happened to it.
As the Clerk of Nueces County, Texas, Kara Sands, says, this type of absentee ballot fraud targets the vulnerable and often “involves older voters and the homebound.” Those voters “don’t even realize their votes are being stolen” she says. The vote harvesters “have these neighborhoods mapped out and they can go door to door….
All of these security vulnerabilities are why a 1998 report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that examined multiple cases of absentee ballot fraud in that state called absentee ballots the “tool of choice” for those who are willing to commit voter fraud to win elections.
Similarly, a Miami–Dade County Grand Jury issued a public report in 2012 recommending that the Florida legislature change its law to prohibit anyone from being “in possession of more than two absentee ballots at one time” unless the ballots are “those of the voter and members of the voter’s immediate family.”
The Florida grand jury summarized all of the problems associated with vote harvesting and allowing an unsupervised third party (other than a member of the voter’s immediate family) access to absentee ballots:
[O]nce that ballot is out of the hands of the elector, we have no idea what happens to it. The possibilities are numerous and scary…. If the ballot is complete and the return envelope is signed and not sealed, the boleteros/ballot brokers can remove the ballot from the secrecy envelope and see the private, confidential selections the elector made on the ballot. Similarly, if the ballot is not completely voted and the return envelope is signed and not sealed, the boletero/ballot broker can remove the ballot from the secrecy envelope…and then vote the rest of the ballot in lieu of the elector. If the boletero does not like the selections made by the elector, the boleteros can simply throw the ballot away and no one would ever know. All of these possibilities are present if an elector relinquishes, to a boletero, control of a fully or partially marked ballot contained in a signed but unsealed return mailing envelope. The more unsettling issue for us is each of the above illegal actions can also take place with a boletero picking up a fully or partially marked ballot contained in a signed and sealed return mailing envelope. The boletero can either stealthily or surgically open the envelope, view the choices of the voter and then decide whether the un-voted portions of a partially completed ballot will be filled out by the boleteros or whether, depending on the elector’s choices, the ballot will simply be discarded.
Illegal Vote Harvesting in North Carolina
Even though vote harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, what happened in the 9th Congressional District race provides an object lesson in what can happen when campaign operatives have access to the absentee ballots of voters, just as predicted by the Miami–Dade grand jury.
In that race, Mark Harris (R) was running against Dan McCready (D). Despite the 900-vote lead that Harris had over McCready at the end of the election, the North Carolina State Board of Elections refused to certify the race because of accusations of fraud and vote harvesting by Leslie McCrae Dowless, who was working for the Harris campaign.
The election board actually overturned the results and ordered a new congressional election in that district (as well as in two local contests in Bladen County) after holding hearings that produced evidence of absentee ballot fraud.
Dowless and seven other individuals were indicted on charges of obstructing justice and unlawfully possessing absentee ballots for the purpose of “scheming to illegally collect, fill in, forge and submit mail-in ballots” from voters, as well as committing perjury by lying to the state election board in sworn testimony. The testimony before the board included Dowless’ stepdaughter who admitted that she filled out blank or incomplete ballots for Republican candidates.
Additional evidence collected by the board indicated that Dowless and his co-conspirators submitted absentee ballot request forms on behalf of voters and then gathered unsealed and unwitnessed (and blank or incomplete) ballots directly from voters. Those ballots were then filled out in Dowless’s office before being mailed in small batches at post offices geographically close to where the voter lived to avoid any warning signs that this was a vote harvesting operation.
Dowless collected several hundred ballots, paying his workers for their criminal activity: “$150.00 per 50 absentee ballot request forms and $125.00 per 50 absentee ballots collected.”
All of these actions, which resulted in forged, fraudulent, and improperly completed absentee ballots being submitted as votes, would have been even harder to detect had vote harvesting been legal in North Carolina, as it is in California. There might have been no basis on which to open an investigation, which ultimately uncovered all of the evidence about the mishandling, completing, and forging of absentee ballots. It should also be noted that the state board had referred Dowless to prosecutors for alleged misdeeds in the 2016 election, but no action was taken then.
Illegal Vote Harvesting in Texas
Texas law allows an absentee ballot to be personally delivered to election officials by the voter; someone “related to the voter within the second degree by affinity or the third degree by consanguinity”; someone registered to vote at the same address as, or physically living with, the voter; or someone “lawfully assisting a voter who was eligible for assistance.” The “official carrier envelope” (containing the completed absentee ballot) cannot be “collected and stored at another location for subsequent delivery” to election officials.
Texas has had a series of prosecutions and convictions for illegal vote harvesting. One of those convicted harvesters, Zaida Bueno, described not only how she requested absentee ballots for voters, but made sure that the ballots were cast for the candidate who was paying her. She said that when the requested ballots arrived, she would go to those homes and would vote the ballots “for the one I want, the one I’m helping.” She had engaged in this illegal election fraud for candidates in the “whole county and the whole courthouse—city council, school board, any election you name I’ve done.”
In 2016, a former city commissioner in Weslaco, Texas, Gaudalupe Rivera, was convicted of illegal “assistance” for filling out absentee ballots for voters in an election he won by only 16 votes. A new election was ordered, and Rivera lost.
Four vote harvesters, or politiqueras, as they are known in Texas, are currently being prosecuted in Tarrant County for fraudulently obtaining absentee ballots from older voters using intimidation, false pretenses, and forged signatures. They are accused of subsequently marking those ballots “without the voter’s consent or knowledge.”
This scheme came to light only because of an “unlikely alliance” between a former Democratic state representative (who was defeated in a March 2014 primary by 111 votes), several Democratic consultants, and Direct Action Texas, a Tea Party-backed organization. They went through the time-consuming task of reviewing applications for absentee ballots and discovered that “the applications were filled out in a machine-like fashion, each address and name of the requestor scrawled in identical handwriting on scores of ballots.”
And how do the vote harvesters find the absentee ballot voters they want to target? One example is demonstrated by the 2017 federal bribery conviction in McAllen, Texas, of a postal carrier. Noe Olvera was paid $1,000 by a campaign worker for a list of the names and addresses of absentee ballot recipients on his postal route.
These cases, as well as others in Texas, demonstrate the vulnerabilities of the absentee ballot process. This type of abuse of voters who are “elderly” and “infirm” is so pervasive, says Omar Escobar (D), district attorney of Starr County, Texas, that “the time has come to consider an alternative to mail-in voting.” Escobar says it needs to be replaced with “something that can’t be hijacked.”
Much of that “fraud in Texas happens in down-ballot contests that can be decided by a couple dozen votes or less.”
Permanent Absentee Ballot Lists
Six states plus the District of Columbia allow voters to make a single request to be placed on a permanent absentee ballot list.
Those states are Arizona, California, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, and Utah.
Election officials will then send those voters absentee ballots for every election without the voter having to make any further requests.
Election officials are notoriously slow in cleaning up voter registration lists and removing voters who have moved, died, or otherwise become ineligible to vote. A 2012 study on the inaccuracies of state voter registration lists found that “approximately 24 million—one of every eight—registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.”
That included more than 1.8 million deceased voters and 2.75 million registered in more than one state. Thus, it is highly likely that absentee ballots will continue to be sent to registered voters who are deceased or have moved before election officials receive notice that the voter should be removed from the registration list. This puts the ballots in the hands of other individuals who reside at those addresses—or to voter harvesters who are there to pick them up. It also provides vote harvesters with a list of voters to target. As the Miami–Dade County Grand Jury said, “maintaining such a list is an invitation to target those voters for fraud and undue influence.”
The grand jury recommended that the Florida legislature eliminate the permanent absentee ballot list and that “absentee voters who desire to vote by absentee ballot for a specific election request an absentee ballot for such election.”
Obviously, there needs to be a way for individuals to vote who cannot vote in person on election day due to illness or other valid reasons. Absentee ballots are the easiest way to make that possible, but the rules and regulations governing them should not make them susceptible to theft, forgery, and coercion. The handling of absentee ballots should be restricted to voters and their most immediate family members or an individual residing in their household to prevent campaigns, political parties, and other third parties from handling absentee ballots.
While illegal vote harvesting still occurs even in states in which it is outlawed, banning it not only acts as deterrence, but gives authorities a basis for investigating potential wrongdoing that is otherwise difficult to detect—namely, when it is evident that third parties are collecting and delivering ballots to election officials.
Voters who are blind, disabled, or illiterate are entitled to assistance under both state and federal law when they need it, both in the polling place and when voting absentee.
But if that occurs in the absentee ballot setting, the voter and the assistor should both be required to sign a declaration form in which the voter certifies that he or she requested assistance and that provides the name and address of the assistor. This would help authorities when they are investigating claims of coercion, intimidation, and illegal assistance.
Voters should be required to request an absentee ballot each time they need one for a specific election. No state should allow a permanent absentee ballot voter list that automatically sends an absentee ballot to a registered voter for each election. Illegal vote harvesting is not a party-specific practice. People on both sides of the political aisle will, on occasion, cheat to boost their preferred candidates or causes or to advance their own careers.
Election fraud of any sort, by any perpetrator, is an affront to America’s republican values. Giving third parties who have a stake in the outcome of an election access to voters and their absentee ballots in an unsupervised setting is not wise and is a proven threat to the integrity of the election process.
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Thank you for participating in this conversation. God Bless America and Godspeed.