California-Style 'Ballot Harvesting' May Be Coming to a State Near You


A change in California’s election law appears to have yielded a major shift to the left in the state’s congressional delegation makeup, and the voting rights group iVote, which notched noteworthy wins during the midterms, is pushing for other states to liberalize their voting laws as well.

“Despite holding substantial leads on Election Day, many Republican candidates in California saw their advantage shrink, and then disappear, as late-arriving Democratic votes were counted in the weeks following the election,” Fox News reported. “While no hard evidence is available, many observers point to the Democrats use of ‘ballot harvesting’ as a key to their success in the elections.”

The number of California GOP representatives dropped in half, from 14 to seven of the Golden State’s 53 seats in last month’s midterm elections.

Some of the losses can no doubt be attributed to the retirements of some high-profile Republican members, including Darrell Issa and Ed Royce; however, incumbents, such as Dana Rohrabacher and Mimi Walters, also fell to their Democratic opponents.

Many are pointing to legislation Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two years ago, legalizing so-called ballot harvesting for mail-in ballots as the explanation for the unexpected election results.

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Prior to the change in the law, only the voter, a family member or someone living in the same household could drop off the ballot at the polling place, if it was not mailed.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that 250,000 harvested ballots were submitted in Orange County alone, which resulted in a Democratic sweep in the once Republican stronghold.

Dale Neugebauer — a veteran Republican consultant from Orange County who worked for Rohrabacher this election cycle — told the paper that Democratic campaign workers came by their house four times, each time asking to speak with his 18-year-old daughter, who registered with no party preference.

He conceded the Democrats played the new game better, which gave them “a huge advantage.”

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“I have a little bit of professional admiration for how well the Democrats executed their plan,” Neugebauer admitted.

House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed astonishment at the number of California Republicans who lost their races, despite being up on election night.

“California just defies logic to me,” Ryan said at a Washington Post event last week. “We have a lot of wins that night. We were down 26 seats the night of the election (nationwide), and three weeks later, we lost basically every contested California race.”

“This election system they have — I can’t begin to understand ‘ballot harvesting,'” he added. “When you have candidates that win the absentee ballot vote, win the day of the vote, and then lose three weeks later because of provisionals, that’s really bizarre.”

The outgoing speaker described California’s new voting system overall as pretty “loosey goose,” The Hill reported.

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Democratic California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who oversees the state’s elections, pushed back, saying in a statement, “It is bizarre that Paul Ryan cannot grasp basic voting rights protections.”

“In California, we believe in an inclusive and accessible democracy,” Padilla proclaimed. “We provide voters as many opportunities as possible to cast their ballots. That is why we have no excuse vote by mail, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and early voting. These reforms helped drive California’s historic registration and a 30 year high in midterm turnout.”

He did not directly address the practice of ballot harvesting in the statement.

The liberal voting rights group iVote is seeking to institute the types of changes Padilla lauded in all 50 states.

According to iVote’s website, its stated goal is to expand voter access by instituting automatic voter registration nationwide in order to elect more Democrats.

Currently, 14 states have adopted automatic voter registration.

Ballot harvesting works hand-in-glove with automatic registration, by actively soliciting people in the newly expanded voter rolls to fill out their ballots and then collecting them.

Arizona and other states have banned ballot harvesting, arguing it is ripe for fraud.

Grand Canyon State election law provides (as California’s used to) that only the voter, a family member or a member of the household can drop off mail-in ballots at the polling place.

The Arizona Republic reported the main area of concern GOP lawmakers in the state expressed with harvesting was ballot security. In other words, what is to prevent ballots that do not align with the collectors’ political views from being opened and tossed?

The Arizona Democrat Party and the Democratic National Committee challenged the 2016 harvest-banning law in federal district court, arguing it overly impacts minorities, and lost. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling in September, according to the Associated Press.

iVote is apparently pro-ballot harvesting.

An article posted on iVote’s website last spring represents that its endorsed candidate in the secretary of state race, then Arizona Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, who won last month, “wants to limit” the impact of Arizona’s ballot harvesting ban.

Hobbs argued the law is meant to hamper Democrats at the ballot box.

At a Democratic candidates forum in April, Hobbs pledged, “We going to do very well electing statewide Democrats, and the secretary of state’s office is how we’re going to hold on to those wins. How we’re going to continue to make gains in the legislature and really create a state that reflects all of our values.”

Hobbs, who was down thousands of votes on election night, ended up pulling out a win over her Republican rival Steve Gaynor, when all the ballots were counted, and thereby successfully flipped the open seat from Republican to Democrat.

iVote touted the decisive role it played in electing Hobbs, dropping $3.3 million to secure her narrow win in the reddish state.

In a news release, the group promised Hobbs will make sure Arizona “will have a level playing field ahead of 2020.”

iVote also bragged about wins in its other targeted swing states of Colorado and Michigan, where it spent millions and flipped the seats from red to blue, as well.

Additionally, the group successfully led the drive to make Nevada an automatic voter registration state.

According to its iVote’s release, “After running the petition campaign that put automatic voter registration on the Nevada ballot two years ago, iVote also lead the $9 million campaign to help the ballot question pass with 60 percent of the vote this year…

“In all, iVote ran campaigns that spent $16 million to stop voter suppression in four key swing states, and won each campaign. iVote’s strategic investments in 2018 to elect pro-voting Secretaries of States and approve (automatic voting registration) in key swing states that will be critical to the 2020 presidential race will level the playing field for Democrats in the next election.”

The Western Journal reached out to a representative for iVote for comment, but received no response.

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 3,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith