Eight months before the contentious November 2020 election, the Democrats’ top election lawyer penned an article on a site frequented by voting activists suggesting that ballot harvesting — a tactic, outlawed in most states, in which third-party activists gather and deliver voters’ ballots — be made lawful in order for Democrats to succeed.
Marc Elias not only called ballot harvesting one of the “four pillars” of a successful election but also, along with other Democrats, sued to overturn harvesting bans in two states. He lost in Georgia in 2020 and lost in Arizona last year in a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
As Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger launches an investigation into an allegation of widespread harvesting in that state’s 2020 elections, attention has been refocused on earlier failed Democrat efforts to make the ballot collection tactic legal and whether rogue elements in the Peach State tried to carry it out despite the ban.
Elias pushed for the legalization of ballot harvesting in a March 2020 article, posting it on Democracy Docket, a self-described “progressive media platform” that he founded.
Titled “Four Pillars to Safeguard Vote by Mail,” the document argues that states must adopt universal mail-in voting and no-excuse absentee ballots. Historically, absentee ballots were only meant for voters who had a legitimate reason for being unable to vote in person, such as military deployment overseas.
The article adds that certain safeguards are necessary to prevent voter disenfranchisement, particularly among young voters and voters of color. Elias then outlines “four requirements that, at a minimum, states should implement to ensure that eligible voters may fully participate in the election this November.”
The first three requirements are that postage for mailed ballots must be free for voters; ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must count, even if they arrive after everyone’s done voting; and signature matching laws should be softened “to protect voters.”
The fourth pillar to ensure a successful election, according to Elias, is ballot harvesting, which he describes as “an important tool” in which “community organizations” collect and deliver “voted, sealed mail-in ballots for counting.”
Elias and other Democrats say the practice is important to ensure voters who don’t have easy access to outgoing mail or need extra help to get their ballots delivered can have their votes counted. They accuse Republicans of wanting to ban harvesting in order to suppress the vote.
Republicans and other critics counter that ballot harvesting allows third parties who have a stake in the outcome of an election — such as members of campaigns and political parties — to have access to voters and their absentee ballots in an unsupervised setting. Such a practice, they argue, opens the door to potential fraud, intimidation, and other forms of coercion.
“One thing that I do think we need is to make sure that nationwide there should be a law that bans ballot harvesting,” Raffensperger said Sunday. “I don’t think that ballot harvesting is good. The only person that should touch your ballot is you and the election official. So, I think that’s one solid election reform measure.”
Some election experts have expressed similar concerns, noting there’s a risk if someone other than a voter or an immediate family member is able to handle absentee ballots.
“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 cha…