Beware electoral scams and trickery! You hear about voter fraud and voter suppression in the news and on social media a lot.
Perhaps that has you wondering:
- What are these things?
- How do they relate to this election?
- What’s it got to do with you?
Defining the Problem
Let’s tackle that first question:
- Vote suppression is any act that seeks to influence an election by discouraging or preventing people from voting.
- Voter fraud is any illegal act that seeks to interfere with an election or its results. Some forms of voter fraud are also voter suppression.
Put the Problem into Perspective
As for Questions #2 and #3, the answer is “Quite a lot.” But probably not how you might think.
The reality is that number of reported, attempted or actual cases of fraud by a voter is miniscule. As it’s super rare, these cases don’t have a statistically significant impact on elections. Multiple studies have the data to back this up.
What is becoming more prevalent is voter suppression and voter fraud activities by organizations, groups and individuals who’re trying prevent you from voting. Their disenfranchisement playbook is full of approaches, scams and other trickery designed to prevent or disqualify your vote.
Ballot Harvesting Basics
One of the tactics these bad actors are using is ballot harvesting (aka ballot collecting). This is when someone collects your mail-in or absentee ballot with the promise of taking it to your polling place and depositing it in the ballot box on your behalf.
Ballot Harvesting is Legal
Ballot harvesting is allowed in many states. This is because it’s not always a bad thing. For example, there are legitimate times when a person isn’t able to submit their own ballot. In such cases, they require a surrogate — generally someone in a person’s family or household — to help.
Thanks to the pandemic, ballot harvesting is on the rise during this election. With people being told to stay at home and to avoid close contact with others, there’s less enthusiasm for going to polling places in person. (Other forms of voter suppression — like reducing the number of polling places so that people are forced to wait in line for hours and hours — aren’t helping either.)
Ballot Harvesting Gone Bad
Ballot harvesting becomes a dirty word when it’s purposely used in a malicious way. It’s a weapon of voter suppression and/or voter fraud when the person or organization collecting your ballot has no intention of actually dropping it into the correct official ballot box (on time). Their sole purpose is to con or cheat you out of your vote.
What Does Ballot Harvesting Look Like?
You know what it is, and why it’s done. But what should you be on the lookout for — so you and your family and friends don’t get scammed?
There are two main ways malevolent ballot harvesting is rearing its ugly head:
- People collecting ballots. These people may go house-to-house, approach you when you’re out and about or have a table or booth set up somewhere. They’ll offer to take your ballot to the collection box for you. They may or may not claim to be with a legitimate political or voter empowerment-type organization.
- Fake ballot collection boxes. This can be a tough one to sniff out because official ballot boxes can look different from place to place. This has been raising much concern even in states where ballot harvesting is legal.
How to Avoid Ballot Harvesting Scams
Here are some tips for not falling prey to ballot harvesting:
- Only vote at official, designated polling places. Find your polling place here.
- Only drop your ballot off at official, designated ballot boxes. Be sure you know what your official ballot collection box looks like before you deposit your ballot! Find your official ballot box location(s) here.
- Do not give your ballot to anyone to deposit in a ballot box for you if you don’t absolutely need to. Your ballot is most secure if it remains in your custody until the moment it goes in the collection box.
- If you cannot drop your ballot off to an official ballot box for yourself and there’s still enough time, mail it in. Be sure to check your state’s deadlines for mail-in ballots.
- If you need someone to deposit your ballot into an official ballot box for you, only give your ballot to someone you know and trust. Make sure your state allows you to have another person deliver your ballot on your behalf.
Be a savvy and defensive voter. Understand common voter fraud and suppression tactics so you can avoid them.
One such tactic is ballot harvesting, the collection of ballots by a third party to deposit into a ballot box on behalf of a voter. While sometimes legal, when it’s done with malicious intent ballot harvesting deprive you of your legal vote.
#IGNITEthevote by only dropping your ballot in official ballot boxes. If you need someone to deposit your ballot for you, make sure your state allows it; then only give your precious ballot to someone you know and trust. If voting in person, only vote at your official polling place.