More states are expected to allow third party ballot collections
The California Republican Party (CRP) outmaneuvered the Democrats in the recent election cycle by appropriating the Democratic Party’s vote-by-mail and ballot collection operations.
The state’s GOP flipped four congressional seats taken by the Democrats in 2018.
They synchronized a massive voter contact program with an absentee ballot collection operation. Their ballot-harvesting strategy included placing drop boxes in local churches, shopping centers, and other friendly locations. One person was assigned to each box to collect votes and hand them over to voting officials.
Yet, at the same time, the Republican National Committee (RNC) was vigorously opposing third-party ballot collection and called ballot harvesting on its website, ProtectTheVote.org, "unacceptable".
But, quietly the RNC was collaborating with the California Republican Party in the use of the Democrats’ ballot harvesting tactics, including third party pickups and ballot drop boxes.
Now, it’s time for the RNC to reverse position and selectively implement vote-by-mail and ballot harvesting in all states where it is permitted.
More states expected to allow
Time is of the essence. The Democrat Party is expected to advocate for ballot harvesting beyond the 26 states that allow it and are likely to use a recent court ruling to make their case.
In response to GOP attempts to stop ballot harvesting in Arizona, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruled that the ban violated the Voting Rights Act. The court majority said that barring voters from delivering the early ballots of neighbors, friends, and others to polling places disproportionately affects American Indian, Hispanic and African American voters.
Currently, ten states allow a family member to return a ballot for a voter, and 26 states allow the voter to designate a non-family individual to return their ballot for them. Among those 26 states, 12 have placed limits on the number of ballots any one agent can collect and return.
Ballot collection strategies differ for each party.
The Democrats need mail in voting and ballot collection to compensate for millions of infrequent, low propensity voters that make up their base. To that end, they need a massive voter contact program to motivate turnout. Union members and advocacy groups make up the core of their voter contact program.
The Republicans, on the other hand, have a greater base of high propensity voters who prefer in-person voting. So, vote-by-mail and ballot harvesting is effective for the GOP’s infrequent voters, newly registered Republicans, and disenfranchised moderate Democrats. Republicans rely on volunteers to carry out their voter contact program. (Sixteen thousand volunteers generated 8 million voter calls that helped the California GOP regain the four congressional seats.)
Over many election cycles, the GOP has learned to adopt innovative Democratic Party campaign tactics, and improve on them – for example, the use of comprehensive merged voter data bases, voter contact mobile applications, and use of social media.
Now, the party, at least in California, showed it could master vote-by-mail and ballot harvesting.
As more states allow ballot harvesting, the GOP must learn from the California 2020 House election victories and fast-track vote-by-mail and ballot harvesting.
Arthur Bruzzone is the former Vice Chair of the California Republican Party County Chairman’s Association. As chair of the San Francisco Republican Party, he and his volunteers boosted turnout by 20% using an early form of ballot harvesting.