Ballot Harvesting

Republican state Rep. Mike Moyle addresses the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Feb, 9, 2021, in the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho. The committee approved a proposed law making it a felony for a third party to collect and return multiple ballots to election officials.

BOISE — A new bill would make it a felony to collect and return ballots on behalf of others. The House State Affairs Committee gave it a do-pass recommendation on Tuesday morning. It will now advance to the House floor.

Under the proposed law, voters would only be allowed to handle two ballots at one time unless a person was authorized to hold more. Authorized persons would include postal workers.

The bill, said sponsor Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, is intended to prevent “ballot harvesting.” Ballot harvesting became a hot-button topic during the 2020 election. Also known simply as ballot collecting, it describes the practice of one person taking multiple mail-in ballots to a mail center or ballot drop-off location. Currently, 24 states and Washington D.C. allow another person to return mail ballots on another’s behalf. Former President Donald Trump claimed ballot harvesting had resulted in voter fraud in the presidential election.

“It may not be a problem in Idaho today. I think we need to fix it before it does become a problem,” Moyle said.

Ballot harvesting or collecting can also be something as simple as someone collecting family members' ballots and dropping them off together.

Phil McGrane, Ada County Clerk, testified in favor of the bill, though he would have preferred a voter be allowed to drop off up to six ballots, rather than just two. McGrane brought up a case outside of Idaho in which a person discarded ballots they did not want to return. He said he received “numerous calls from voters” wanting to know if their party affiliation was visible on the outside of the ballot, “because they were afraid the people handling them would choose which ballots to accept."

Political parties are not marked on mail-in ballot envelopes. However, the name and address of the voter are on the envelope. McGrane said someone could look up that person’s voter registration information.

“I want to make sure every vote counts and make sure everyone has faith in the process in terms of how those ballots are being handled. ... I believe with minimal sophistication somebody who had bad intentions could do so,” McGrane said.

McGrane noted that mailboxes and postal workers are still the primary way absentee ballots reach polling centers.