by Arjun Singh
The Republican National Committee (RNC) unveiled a new election strategy on Wednesday that includes ballot harvesting in states where it’s legal, which conservative activists say is necessary to win elections in 2024.
The RNC’s new strategy, named “Bank Your Vote,” involves helping Republican voters cast their votes “as early as possible, through in-person early voting, absentee voting, and ballot harvesting where legal,” according to an email the RNC sent the DCNF. “Ballot harvesting,” a practice where absentee ballots are collected from voters by political employees and deposited at an election office or ballot drop box, has been strongly criticized by some Republicans in the past, though GOP candidates and activists now say it will be important to winning in 2024.
“GET RID OF BALLOT HARVESTING, IT IS RAMPANT WITH FRAUD. THE USA MUST HAVE VOTER I.D., THE ONLY WAY TO GET AN HONEST COUNT!” tweeted then-President Donald Trump in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many Democratic-led states permitted the practice to enable voters to vote from their homes and remain socially distanced. Trump later ramped up attacks on ballot harvesting after he lost the general election, writing that “VOTES CANNOT BE CERTIFIED” due to “ballot harvesting.”
His comments were echoed by other senior Republicans, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina calling it an “insane idea,” which RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel echoed, with the RNC joining a lawsuit opposing the measure in Arizona in 2020. “Ignoring this most notable threat to election security is unacceptable,” wrote Republicans on the House of Representatives Administration Committee, which is responsible for overseeing elections to the House, in reference to ballot harvesting.
Many Republican-led states moved to pass laws banning the practice, with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida – currently, a presidential candidate – signing a law, SB 524, that made ballot harvesting a felony and raised its criminal penalty to five years’ imprisonment. Other states – such as Texas, Georgia and South Carolina – enacted or ordered measures to prohibit ballot harvesting.
Currently, 39 states have laws regarding ballot harvesting, with 24 allowing a person “chosen by the voter” to return an absentee ballot to an election office, while 14 states limit that person to certain individuals, such as a member of their household, according to Ballotpedia. Only one state, Alabama, bans anyone except the voter from returning a ballot.
“We want to see laws like Vote I.D. Get rid of ballot harvesting. We don’t want ranked choice voting. We want to fight that in every single state where we can. But when we get to Election Day and the laws are set, we have to play with the rules on the playing ground, and that’s where this initiative is so critical,” said McDaniel on the Hugh Hewitt Show on Wednesday.
Other Republican operatives agreed. “I have long been critical of loose ballot harvesting laws … [but] Republicans must aggressively compete under the state laws we have, and that includes beating Democrats at getting our votes in early,” said Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC committeewoman from California and elections lawyer who challenged McDaniel for the chair this year, in comments to the DCNF.
Her reluctance was echoed by Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots Action, a conservative election integrity group that trains poll watchers across the country. While expressing misgivings about the idea, she told the DCNF that “We cannot afford and do not intend to unilaterally disarm. In states where ballot harvesting is legal, we will encourage our activists and supporters to engage fully in all efforts to mobilize voters. … We will leave no tools on the table.”
Other strategists argued it is a matter of bare political necessity. “I’m in favor of doing whatever is legal to improve the chances of our candidates to win. I think everyone is,” said Mike McKenna, a former Trump White House official and president of MWR Strategies, a political consultancy.
Peter Roff, a political commentator, told the DCNF that “[i]f the GOP wants to win, it needs to be just as aggressive tactically as the Democrats.”
DeSantis recently said in Iowa that “We’re going to do ballot harvesting. I’m doing it, yes.” Trump, meanwhile, has sentout fundraising emails for his “Ballot Harvesting Fund” to engage in the practice where legal.
When asked about the legality of ballot harvesting in general, Dhillon said that “[c]ourts have ruled that another person delivering a ballot [duly] completed by the voter, is legal.”
Trump, DeSantis and other Republican presidential candidates did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Arjun Singh is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Ballot” by Edmond Dantès.