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Harvest Time is Fast Approaching

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Harvest time is fast approaching, but the harvest is not for what we generally think of—its ballot harvesting.  Ballot harvesting that has been occurring for several years, is quietly flying under the radar of most of the main stream media outlets.  Oh, there have been stories here and there, but attention to the coercion, influencing, and buying of voters is going widely unnoticed.  Just what is ballot harvesting exactly?

In Texas, one can request a ballot by mail if they meet any one of four requirements.  These requirements are: absence from the county in which registered during voting, a disability, being 65 years of age or order, or in jail but not convicted of a felony.  To receive a ballot by mail, a voter must make the request to the county elections administrator by submitting an application along with their signature.  Once the request is received and approved, the ballot is mailed to the voter at a time prescribed in the Texas Election Code for the election.   There are those who will pay voters for their ballots, fill them out, sign the ballot carrier envelope, and mail them as if they are the voter.   In this case, the voter just sold the ballot.  In some instances, those working for candidates can suggest to those with whom they come in contact that they need to request a ballot by mail and then offer to return when the ballot arrives and help the person complete the form.  Sometimes there is payment of some sort involved.  A known case of vote harvesting took place in South Texas in a Donna ISD school board race in which 6 people were indicted.  See the details of the story at these two links: 

http://www.themonitor.com/news/local/board-president-s-suicide-comes-amid-fbi-accusations-of-vote/article_5c62e096-742a-11e3-892e-0019bb30f31a.html



As there has been much attention given to election integrity by making sure that those who vote in person are who they say they are, there is no guarantee that those who vote by mail are those requesting the ballot.  There is no requirement for any type of voter id.  The only thing that election workers have to go by is the signatures on the application and ballot carrier envelope which should match.  Without any checks, the door has been left wide open for vote fraud in which ballots by mail are involved.  This all makes ballot harvesting a relatively simple endeavor for those who are seeking election.  It is also not easy to prosecute and many times will only carry a misdemeanor charge thus making it less than likely to even be prosecuted by those who hold the authority to do so.

Over the past few election cycles, I have heard several county clerks talk about the increasing number of ballots by mail that they are receiving.  The Texas Election Code has even been changed recently to allow registered voters to request annual ballots by mail.  This means that instead of having to request a ballot by mail for every election, they can just check the “annual” box on the application and have one mailed to them for every election that takes place for that time period.  These applications are not subject to review until the end of the year, which is well beyond the deadline to contest any irregularities.

I have noticed myself that campaigns are sending out mailers encouraging voters to request ballots by mail and then suggesting that the voter vote for a slate of candidates the sender is endorsing.  With this increase in attention paid to ballots by mail from campaigns, it seems that we would want to make sure that this type of voting is just as secure, if not more so, than in-person voting.  With in-person voting, the ballot is always in a secure place where it is unlikely to be tampered with and with poll worker’s presence at the polling location, coercion of the voter is less likely to happen.

With harvest time fast approaching, let us all give some thought to just what our privilege to vote means and how we can be instrumental in helping to preserve the integrity of our election process.  Contact your state legislators and request that they make election integrity a priority in the upcoming session.



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