BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — In just 20 days from Tuesday, ballots for this year’s midterm election will start arriving in mailboxes across Kern County.
And amid ultra-competitive races and high-stakes propositions, what may draw the most controversy this election is simply how we turn in our ballots.
“But golly, as long as we have the mail-in ballots and allow ballot harvesting, and the drop boxes, it’s going to be a tough row to hoe living here in California,” Taft Republican Assembly President and Elections Integrity Project volunteer Vince Maiocco said.
Ballot harvesting can be one of the most confusing and contentious ways to cast a ballot.
The practice involves a third party picking up a ballot a voter has filled out and dropping it off at a drop box or an elections department.
In 2016, California changed its law to allow any third party — rather than just a relative or roommate of a voter — to collect and turn in ballots.
This means campaign workers or political volunteers can knock on the doors of voters likely to vote in their party’s favor, offer to help the voter fill out their ballot and turn it in for them.
The limitation in California is collectors cannot be paid solely for the number of ballots they pick up.
Critics, like Maiocco, are concerned ballot harvesting could lead to someone voting in place of someone else or allow a third party to tamper with or throw out ballots.
“I believe that in order to have a strong democracy, we need more people voting,” Democratic analyst Neel Sannappa said.
Proponents like Sannappa say the practice makes it easier for residents — especially those who work two or three jobs — to cast a ballot.
“If we can make it easier and more accessible, which ballot pickup or ballot harvesting, does do that, then I think that’s a good thing,” Sannappa said. “Why wouldn’t we want more people voting?”
But Republican analyst Cathy Abernathy argues more people voting due to ballot harvesting isn’t necessarily a good thing if the voter is not aware of the candidates and issues and does not care about voting.
“That means you’re getting ballots that don’t really reflect the individual person. If 5% of America doesn’t want to vote, okay, I’d rather [have] people that actually knew what they were doing,” Abernathy said.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of this year, California is one of 31 states that allows a third party to turn in another voter’s ballot. 15 of those states, however, stipulate who the third party can be, such as a relative, spouse, caregiver or roommate.