Vote harvesting opened the door for political operatives to try to steal an election.

Wide scale voter fraud forced officials to throw out the results of the 2018 North Carolina Ninth Congressional District race. Republican operative Leslie Dowless and several cronies illegally harvested, altered, or destroyed hundreds of ballots in a scheme to fix the race for Republican candidate Mark Harris. Dowless now faces multiple criminal charges, and the district had to hold a special election. The scandal is a wake-up call for elections officials and voters nationwide. 

Skilled and determined fraudsters can, and do, find and exploit electoral vulnerabilities, with profound consequences. Absentee ballots are particularly vulnerable, and “vote harvesting”—where people collect other voters’ absentee ballots—is one tool to exploit that fact. Once Dowless had possession of residents’ absentee ballots, he could modify or destroy them without voters ever knowing they had been essentially disenfranchised. Despite the lesson of North Carolina, California recently legalized the practice and partisan activists advocate for its legalization nationwide.

Fortunately, most elections aren’t the subject of scandals like these, and voters deserve laws that will keep it that way.