Rep. Calvert Asks for Ballot Harvesting Legal Clarity
Today, Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42) sent a letter to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters seeking information on the application of the California law authorizing the practice known as ballot harvesting. As Democrats in the House of Representatives pursue significant changes to our election laws, many questions remain about the ballot harvesting legalities authorized by the state of California.
“As we’ve seen in North Carolina, the practice of ballot harvesting is ripe for voter fraud,” said Rep. Calvert. “The California Secretary of State and our election officials have provided little if any information on the rules and regulations covering ballot harvesting since Democrats legalized the practice in our state. As a result, we have seen an erosion of voter confidence in the integrity of California’s elections. When unknown third parties are handling hundreds or thousands of ballots with no transparency voters are understandably concerned. Our election laws should always be focused on what protects the confidence and integrity of our elections, not what gives one party an advantage over the other.”
The letter from Rep. Calvert to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters asks the following:
- When an individual obtains a vote by mail ballot from a voter and is designated to return it on their behalf, are they required to provide their name, the name of the organization they are working on behalf of or any other identifying information to the voter who is turning over their ballot?
- Are individuals who collect vote by mail ballots from voters required to document the ballot’s chain of custody in any way?
- If an individual collects a vote by mail ballot from a voter, are they permitted to turn over that ballot to another individual or organization before it is returned to an authorized voting location?
- If it is clear that a vote by mail ballot is being dropped off by a person other than the voter – e.g. the person is dropping off more than one ballot – and the envelopes are not signed by the third party, is that documented and is the ballot counted?
- What identifying information does the Riverside County Registrar of Voters collect from an individual who delivers vote by mail ballots on behalf of other voters?
- Does the Riverside County Registrar of Voters document and maintain a list of persons who collect and submit vote by mail ballots for others? If such a list is created, is it subject to public disclosure?
- Is there a numerical threshold in terms of numbers of vote by mail ballots turned in by an individual that triggers an identification requirement? i.e. Is an individual turning in 10 vote by mail ballots required to submit and disclose their personal information? An individual turning in 100 vote by mail ballots? An individual turning in 1,000 vote by mail ballots?
- What are the eligibility qualifications for an individual who collects and returns vote by mail ballots? Do they have to be an eligible voter?
- Are non-California residents eligible to collect and return vote by mail ballots?
- Are non-citizens eligible to collect and return vote by mail ballots?
- Are foreign nationals in the United States eligible to collect and return vote by mail ballots?
- Is there a maximum limit or cap on the number of vote by mail ballots an individual is allowed to collect and return?
- AB 1921 indicates it is unlawful for individuals collecting vote by mail ballots to fail “to deliver the ballot in a timely fashion.” What do you consider to be a timely fashion to return a vote by mail ballot once an individual collects it from a voter?
- Is a political campaign, including paid staff, allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?
- Is a non-profit organization allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?
- Are businesses, including corporations, allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?
- Is a labor union allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?
- Is a church allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?
- AB 1921 makes it unlawful for anyone to provide any form of compensation based on the number of vote by mail ballots collected and returned. Are there any other restrictions on compensating individuals collecting and returning vote by mail ballots?
- Are campaigns permitted to hire private outside vendors to conduct vote by mail ballot collection and return activities so long as they do not provide compensation based on the number of ballots collected?
- Are individuals collecting vote by mail ballots required to disclose to the voter turning over their ballot if they are collecting ballots on behalf of an organization or campaign?
- Are individuals collecting vote by mail ballots required to disclose to the voter turning over their ballot if they are being compensated to collect ballots?
- How can a voter that turned over their vote by mail ballot to an individual who indicated they would return it verify whether or not the ballot was returned?
- If a voter that turned over their vote by mail ballot to an individual who indicated they would return it believes the ballot was not submitted in a timely fashion as required by law, what recourse do they have?
- You currently document and make public whether a voter cast a ballot in an election and, if they did vote, which method the voter used to cast a ballot. Do you have a new category to document ballots cast utilizing the ballot collection methods authorized by AB 1921?
- When vote by mail ballots are returned by an individual, what procedures do you and your staff follow to ensure the ballots were not tampered with?
- If physical evidence, such as opened and taped envelopes or a high frequency of spoiled ballots, was present in a batch of vote by mail ballots returned by an individual, what steps would you take?
Two years ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1921, which legalized the practice known as ballot harvesting. Specifically, the law changed Section 3017 of the Election Code and allows any person to collect a vote by mail ballot from an eligible voter and turn in the ballot to a polling place or a registrar of voter’s office. The only restriction written into the law was a prohibition on compensating an individual based on the number ballots that person returns.