If political operatives wanted to manipulate the system by taking advantage of lax ballot harvesting guidelines, they could pick no better state than Nevada.
Nevada neither limits who can turn in ballots on behalf of others nor how many ballots they can turn in.
This is problematic in that every registered voter in the state receives a mail-in ballot unless they specifically request otherwise. Those intent on interfering in elections could collect ballots through nefarious means such as manipulating the sick or elderly, buying ballots or outright theft.
Ballot harvesting proponents say the practice promotes accessibility and enables more voices to be heard. Opponents worry it opens the door to election fraud and has the potential to upend the concept of One Person, One Vote.
Last year, the Nevada State Legislature made what had been promised as a temporary, emergency measure permanent by legalizing ballot harvesting, formerly a felony in the Silver State. This was passed together with a policy to mail every Nevadan a ballot regardless of whether they requested one.
Across the nation, some 31 states allow someone other than the voter to return a completed ballot on behalf of another resident, a process known as ballot harvesting. About half limit this provision to a family member, household member or caregiver. However, 16 states, including Nevada, allow a voter to designate anyone to return their ballot for them.
In states where voters can authorize someone to return a ballot on their behalf, nine limit how many ballots an authorized person can return, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
That figure varies: Arkansas, Colorado and West Virginia allow an individual to collect no more than two ballots from others per election; Arizona and South Carolina allow five, while in Montana it’s six.
Nevada’s lone restriction is that ballots must be returned to a collection point by the end of third day after receiving it.
A key issue with ballot harvesting is integrity among those collecting large numbers of ballots. Were a bad actor to secure the ballots of groups that, based on demographics or geography, were more likely to favor the opposition, they could tamper with or discard them.
Consider the 2018 election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. An investigation by the state board of elections found that fraud occurred with several political operatives eventually indicted for their role in ballot harvesting and ballot tampering. The state election board refused to certify the election, leaving the district unrepresented in the 116th Congress for nearly a year.
The above almost certainly isn’t an isolated case, though such fraudulent activity likely happens on a much smaller scale most of the time. However, there will always be those who look to manipulate the system.
Those in power should seek to remove unnecessary barriers to voting but also work to ensure elections are safe and secure.