Should the GOP Adopt Ballot Harvesting?

Recently, President Trump urged Republicans to “...become masters of ballot harvesting.” He told an audience at CPAC they need to start harvesting ballots (legally) to counter the harvesting by Democrats. Perhaps I am hung up on semantics, but I think ballot harvesting is awful and usually illegal.

What is “Ballot Harvesting”?

A harvester is usually an anonymous political operative, or someone paid by a political operative, who rounds up ballots and places them in voter drop boxes or mailboxes -- sometimes after altering them. In other cases he gives the ballots to a political organization, where they are “reviewed” prior to distribution to drop boxes by “mules.” Harvesters and mules are often paid “by the piece,” which means they have a big incentive to obtain ballots in any way possible.

A harvester might knock on your door while you are watching “90 Day Fiancé,” and offer to “help” you mail your ballot. But he also might pluck the ballot (or ballot application) directly from your mailbox before you get home from work. Perhaps, someone working at the city trash dump will pull unused ballots from garbage. The price paid for these harvested ballots could be very high if the election is closely contested, and if there are only a few days left to change the outcome.

Some harvesters don’t even bother dealing with real people. They register “phantoms” (made-up people) at fake addresses, such as gas stations, parking lots, and commercial buildings. Then they apply for ballots in the name of the phantoms, and vote those ballots when they arrive.

How to Harvest Ballots – An Expert’s Guide

Jon Levine, writing for the New York Post, interviewed a “top Democratic operative” who asserted that voter fraud with mail-in ballots is no myth. “And he knows this because he’s been doing it, on a grand scale, for decades” (emphasis added). Levine described the interview, which took place on August 29, 2020.

This “consultant” claimed that he worked for various campaigns and “led teams of fraudsters and mentored at least 20 operatives in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania -- a critical 2020 swing state.”

The harvester said he and his colleagues would often steam open envelopes and insert new or altered ballots into them. Care would be taken to disperse the harvested ballots into several mail boxes to avoid suspicion.

The anonymous harvester told Levine that some postal workers get in on the scam. Ballots (or ballot applications) can be taken by mail carriers before they are even delivered because a postal worker knows exactly who has moved out, who is on vacation, or who has died.

Here are some other tidbits from the harvesting expert:

  • Some mail carriers work directly within his “work crews.”
  • Nursing homes can be “a gold mine of votes.” In some cases, a nurse would be one of his paid operatives. He referred to this activity as “granny harvesting.”
  • Homeless people are a reliable source of cheap ballots.
  • He knew of one guy who paid $50 for a single ballot. (Inflation is impacting everyone!)

What can be Done About Ballot Harvesting?

  • States need to require voters to provide some form of hard identification, such as four digits of the Social Security number or the driver’s license.
  • Each state should make harvesting explicitly illegal, with stiff penalties.
  • Drop boxes and mail boxes should be in secure locations, with 24/7 video camera recordings.
  • Chain-of-custody records must be completed and double-signed.
  • Registrations rolls need to be cleaned up, and kept current constantly.
  • Publicly-aired announcements should warn voters to not let strangers handle their ballots.

Of course, some state administrators welcome harvesting activities, and will oppose efforts to curtail them. In those states, Republicans should try to expose the operations -- especially where illegal methods are suspected.

How can Republicans expose Democrat Ballot Harvesting Operations?

  • Republicans need to perform voter canvassing immediately after any close election. If aggressive (i.e., illegal) harvesting is suspected, hire a top-level CPA or law firm to canvass a statistically significant sample of homes. The accountants or lawyers (or staff) need to knock on doors and ask if voting actually took place, by what means (in-person or mail-in). If there are significant differences the cause will likely be ballot harvesting that was performed without the knowledge of the voter.
  • Republicans need to have qualified professionals perform signature testing. However, in some states it will be very difficult to obtain samples of signatures.  (Election officials will probably cite privacy concerns.)
  • Tough observers are needed to monitor drop boxes and mail boxes. Have lawyers ready, because left-wing intimidation tactics are almost certain.
  • Rewards might be useful in some cases, to find out about harvesting operations.

Why Ballot Harvesting Won’t Work for Republicans

Why shouldn’t the GOP do its own ballot harvesting? Apart from being unethical, the GOP will never be as successful at harvesting as Democrats. Here are the reasons:

  • Democrats own the homeless. As noted, the homeless are a reliable source of inexpensive ballots, and they are generally found in Democrat areas within Democrat-run cities.
  • Democrats own the postal workers. No group has more opportunity to harvest ballots than mail carriers. They can simply hang onto harvested ballots (or applications) and sell them, without detection. Why do they lean to the Democrats? A piece by Evan Halper (LA Times) explains: “...the Postal Service is the embodiment of so many causes dear to Democrats -- diverse, unionized workforce, a ticket to the middle class for hundreds of thousands, a linchpin to the expansion of voting by mail...”
  • Nurses lean left. Nurses are another good source of ballots. Why? They work in nursing homes, where patients are often susceptible to influence and pressure. After the 2020 election in Wisconsin, an audit revealed that 70% of tested nursing homes had voting rates of 100%, a ludicrous percentage. The audit concluded that patients were pressured to vote -- probably by nursing staff.
  • GOP harvesters might be prosecuted while Democrat harvesters are not. By now, we all should realize that Lady Justice is not blind. Left-wing rioters may be released in hours, while some Republican rioters go to prison for years. Do you think it will be different for ballot harvesting?

Clearly, ballot harvesting is not one of President Trump’s better ideas.

Joe Fried is an Ohio-based CPA who has performed and reviewed hundreds of certified financial audits. He is the author of the new book, Debunked? An auditor reviews the 2020 election -- and the lessons learned (Republic Book Publishers, 2022).

Image: Arizona Attorney General's Office

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