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article imageVoter fraud — A closer look at ballot harvesting in the U.S.

By Karen Graham     Sep 25, 2020 in Politics
Americans’ interest in voting by mail has surged this year as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. There have been claims that mail-in balloting will lead to voter fraud, however, overt election tampering is "exceedingly rare."
Voter fraud, or electoral fraud is illegal interference in the election process, either by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates, or in some cases, both. And this rather vague definition can vary, depending on which country you live in.
Electoral fraud comes in many forms. For example, outright threats of bodily harm, harassment, and even libel are sometimes used to sway an election, and these forms of voter fraud would also be considered illegal under our general laws.
To really confuse the reader, there are some elections, that while appearing to be legal, still come under the title "voter fraud." In other words, we are talking about "show elections," like the recent election in Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in two days ago as president for a sixth term after an election in August, which the U.S. and its European allies have said was neither free nor fair
President Lukashenko insists that Belarus is not ready for a woman leader
President Lukashenko insists that Belarus is not ready for a woman leader
Voter fraud as a corruption of Democracy
It is possible to have successful electoral fraud that has the effect of being a coup d'état, a type of public protest that expresses objection, disapproval or dissent towards an idea or action - usually political.
Quite often, as in the United States, protests are used as a way of publicly making opinions heard in an attempt to influence the public's opinion or government policy.
This kind of action can be enough to sway a narrow election, actually changing a foregone result. Even if the outcome is not affected, the revelation of fraud can reduce voters' confidence in democracy.
In April 2020, the results of a 20 year-long study on voter fraud by MIT found the level of fraud "exceedingly rare" since it occurs only in "0.00006 percent" of instances nationally - meaning the incidence of voter fraud is "about five times less likely than getting hit by lightning in the United States."
The caption reads  1st Lieutenant Samuel Griffin  voting officer of 3d Battalion  1st Marines  obser...
The caption reads "1st Lieutenant Samuel Griffin, voting officer of 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, observes as Corporal Gary Froberg completes his voting registration.
USMC Archives from Quantico, USA
We are now going to look closer at something known as "ballot harvesting." This practice is particularly relevant today because of the claims that mail-in ballots are sure to increase the incidence of voter fraud,
Ballot harvesting
Ballot harvesting, or as it is more commonly called, ballot collecting, is usually done by third-party individuals, volunteers or workers, who gather and submit completed absentee or mail-in voter ballots to polling places or an election office. This is usually done in the U.S. where voting by mail is common, but some other states have laws restricting it.
This type of ballot gathering is particularly helpful when voters live in remote areas or lack ready access to transportation, are incapacitated or in then hospital or jail. However, ballot collecting has been criticized as possibly increasing the potential of vote misappropriation or fraud.
Voters drop off their presidential primary mail-in ballots in Renton  Washington
Voters drop off their presidential primary mail-in ballots in Renton, Washington
Jason Redmond, AFP
It is interesting to note that the term "ballot harvesting" was coined by California Republicans and carries a negative connotation to suggest improprieties and even election fraud.
This brings to mind a case in North Carolina involving ballot harvesting. Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., 64, of Bladen County, was indicted in April this year on fraudulently receiving Social Security benefits while getting paid for political work. He was a ballot collector.
Dowless has been at the center of a state elections and criminal investigation probe into illegal ballot harvesting in the 9th Congressional District campaign. Dowless and others were indicted in state court in 2019 - resulting in the 2018 congressional election rerun last September.
A Rural Letter Carrier from Fort Myers  Florida
A Rural Letter Carrier from Fort Myers, Florida
Evidence showed he worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris. Witnesses told state officials that Dowless gathered hundreds of absentee ballots from Bladen County voters with the help of his assistants, who testified that they were directed to collect blank or incomplete ballots, forge signatures on them and even fill in votes for local candidates.
Needless to say, Harris did appear to have won the election, however, when the election had to be repeated last year, Harris decided not to run, according to the Times News.
In the united States, as of July, 2020, 26 states allow specified agents to collect and submit ballots for another voter. Usually such agents are family members or persons in the same household.
Some states, like Colorado set a limit on how many ballots can be collected by one individual, in this case, 10 ballots being the limit. In Montana, the limit per collector is set at six ballots. In Texas, ballot collecting is illegal.
More about 2020 election, coronavirus, mainin ballots, Voter fraud, manipulation
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