Free and fair elections are essential to a representative democracy. They lay the groundwork for a smooth transition of power and help maintain voters’ confidence that their voices are heard. So why does Nevada insist on undermining the perception of election integrity by allowing such tactics as ballot harvesting?
Ballot harvesting involves the collection and submission of completed mail-in or absentee ballots by a third party instead of by voters themselves. It typically occurs in areas where it can be difficult for voters to reach polling places, including remote communities and retirement homes.
Ballot harvesting is popular among political groups who want to increase voter turnout for their candidates. Champions of the practice argue that it promotes accessibility and enables more voices to be heard each election cycle. Opponents worry it opens the door to election fraud.
Last year, the Nevada State Legislature turned what was promised to be a temporary, emergency measure into a permanent one by legalizing ballot harvesting by partisan volunteers. This was passed in tandem with a policy to mail every Nevadan a ballot regardless of whether they requested one.
These new policies have raised serious concerns from those who worry about election security. Oftentimes, ballot harvesting is carried out by individuals who have a political interest in the outcome of an election and will be spending time unsupervised with the ballots they are collecting.
It is worth noting that beyond the obvious danger posed by ballot harvesting, there is also little need for the risk to even happen. Those who vote through mail-in or absentee ballots are not required to pay postage and simply need drop completed ballots in the mail. If we trust the postal service to get ballots to voters, shouldn’t we trust them to return ballots to polling locations?
While cases of ballot harvesting leading to fraud are uncommon, the reality is that it is practically an open invitation for anyone interested in tipping the scales of an election. While ballot harvesting is unlikely to affect national elections, it has greater potential to impact mid-term and municipal elections, which have relatively small numbers of voters.
Ballot harvesting can present serious risks to the security of our elections and is one small part of the larger dangers currently facing the Nevada election system. Protecting the vote of every person is a non-partisan issue, one that should be taken seriously by every American who believes in the principle of “one person, one vote.”