Ballot Fraud, American-Style . . . And Its Bitter Harvests

America’s electoral obsession isn’t Russian meddling anymore. It’s ballot-harvesting, a long-disputed practice implicated in fraud that’s come to the fore with the nationwide embrace of absentee voting in recent years—and especially in last month’s midterms.

With ballot-harvesting, paper votes are collected by intermediaries who deliver them to polling officials, presumably increasing voter turnout but also creating opportunities for mischief.

The latter is suspected in North Carolina, where uncharacteristic Democratic charges of vote fraud prompted an investigation into whether Republican-paid political operatives illegally collected and possibly stole absentee ballots in a still-undecided congressional race. A national spotlight was shone by the New York Times, which, like Democrats, often minimizes vote fraud; it flooded the zone in this case, assigning five reporters to a single story.

In California, by contrast, Democrats exulted as they credited a quietly passed 2016 law legalizing ballot-harvesting with their recent sweep of House seats in the former Republican stronghold of Orange County, thereby helping them win control of the House.

In that case, it was Republican eyebrows that were arched. Speaker Paul Ryan said what happened in California “defies logic.”

In Orange County, an estimated 250,000 harvested ballots were reportedly dropped off on Election Day alone. County Republican Chairman Fred Whitaker claimed the 2016 law “directly caused the switch from being ahead on election night to losing two weeks later.”

One interaction caught by a Santa Clarita family’s doorbell camera suggested how harvesting can work in practice. A harvester, identifying herself as Lulu, asks for Brandi, and says she is there to collect her ballot, explaining that there is “this new service, but only to, like, people who are supporting the Democratic Party.”

However, there is no evidence that ballots were marked or discarded by those harvesting the ballots, as is alleged in North Carolina.

Election officials there have refused to certify Republican Mark Harris’s victory over Democrat Dan McReady in the state’s 9th Congressional District, and Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a Democratic member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is seeking an emergency hearing into possible voter fraud in that race.

“Votes have been stolen by preying on senior and minority voters, and now a cloud of doubt and suspicion hangs over this election result,” Connolly said.

North Carolina absentee ballots require a “witness,” or second signature, to verify the voter’s identity. In Republican-heavy Bladen County, the same people were signing as witnesses for numerous absentee ballots, a telltale sign that they were being “harvested.”

In fact, one TV station interviewed a harvester who claimed she was paid by Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., a local political operative, between $75 and $100 a week to pick up completed absentee ballots. Dowless has worked for numerous North Carolina politicians of both political parties.

Dowless’s connection to Harris’s campaign, which paid Harris’s employer $428,000 for administrative, staff and grassroots services, is prompting a national look at ballot harvesting, which is considered election fraud because North Carolina law specifically prohibits anyone from collecting ballots.

But evidence is emerging that Dowless wasn’t the only one harvesting in the Tar Heel State.

WBTV, a Charlotte station, reviewed 796 official ballot envelopes of votes cast in Bladen County. The review identified 110 that were signed by two women who are listed as having been paid by a PAC connected to the North Carolina Democratic Party.

North Carolina is but one example of dubious ballot-harvesting nationwide. The practice is so common, harvesters even have their own region-specific names. In Florida, they’re known as “boleteros.” In Texas, they’re called “politiqueras” . . .

Read the rest at Real Clear Investigations.

Image credit: iStock/Getty Images

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