A National Map of State Ballot Collection Laws and Ballot Harvesting Prohibitions


In a 2020 research paper “Secure And Accessible Elections: Absentee Voting Solutions For 2020 And Beyond”, Lincoln Network’s Sean Roberts and Alexiaa Jordan discuss the benefits and risks of expanded absentee voting, which is on track to increase in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing. 

One of the risks involves the greater opportunity for ballot harvesting. For example, in 2006, the nonpartisan Election Assistance Commission warned: 

“One point of agreement is that absentee voting and voter registration by nongovernmental groups create opportunities for fraud. For example, a number of studies cited circumstances in which voter registration drives have falsified voter registration applications or have destroyed voter registration applications of persons affiliated with a certain political party. Others conclude that paying persons per voter registration application creates the opportunity and perhaps the incentive for fraud.”

In the Lincoln paper’s discussion about potential solutions to improve election integrity, Roberts and Jordan recommend that: “National and state policymakers should protect the integrity of the democratic process by expanding access to voting by mail while establishing protections to address administrative problems and enhancing laws to prevent ballot harvesting and fraud.” 

To decrease the potential for fraud and coercion, Roberts and Jordan propose strengthening laws to prevent ballot harvesting: “All voting territories should have laws to prevent ballot harvesting, with strict language about ballot-returning methods.” Roberts and Jordan recommend several other reforms to enhance the integrity of voting by mail, including strengthening ballot tracking.

The below map presents information about each state’s laws regarding ballot collection and ballot harvesting, based on Lincoln Network’s review of relevant state laws and a plain reading of the relevant statute. In addition, the National Conference of State Legislatures prepared an analysis of state laws regarding “Who Can Collect and Return an Absentee Ballot Other Than the Voter.”

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Dan Lips
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