Stop Ballot Harvesting Before it Threatens the 2020 Election | Opinion

The central principle of our democracy is the right of every American to vote. While the outcome of the election may leave some voters disappointed, we should all have confidence in the integrity of our elections. In this, there must be no dispute.

Our election system faces many challenges. The consequences of voter disenfranchisement and historic inequities linger with us today and demand our attention to ensure equitable access to the ballot box. We know the danger of those seeking to influence our elections by hacking into our election infrastructure. An additional threat that hits very close to home is that of third-party interest groups getting between our ballot and the ballot box.

It is because of the seriousness and immediacy of this threat that, on September 17, we introduced H.R. 8285, the Election Fraud Protection Act.

Unfortunately, we've seen fraud result from the ability of third-party groups to engage in ballot collection and harvesting. Just look to recent examples in both Democratic and Republican states like New Jersey, North Carolina and California, where perpetrators from both sides of the aisle have engaged in voter fraud using ballot harvesting as a means to further their respective objectives.

ballot box
A resident drops off a vote-by-mail ballot in a secure drop box on October 02, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The city opened its first early voting site in the Loop yesterday with more sites expected to open in the city soon. Scott Olson/Getty

We need to set aside the partisan spin from both major parties and recognize the threat we face. Ballots can be collected and then never delivered to a polling site to be counted. In some cases, harvesters have collected signed envelopes with blank ballots, which they then fill out for the voter.

Efforts at voter suppression are well documented. There is no easier way to suppress votes than by "harvesting" ballots and then simply "losing" them on the way to the ballot box. Just as sinister are organized efforts to collect blank ballots to stuff ballot boxes.

Anyone who has worked in politics knows that this can happen and that there are people who are willing to do anything to win. Contentions to the contrary are born either out of naiveté or out of complicity.

There are too many in politics who place the pursuit of power ahead of the preservation of our democracy and election integrity. This is a threat to us all. Even a few instances of fraud have the ability to undermine voters' trust in the integrity of our elections.

As the use of mail-in ballots increases, particularly in this election year, the threat of ballot-harvesting fraud grows exponentially. This is why we are urging our colleagues in Congress to quickly pass the Election Fraud Prevention Act. We must ensure ballot harvesters are not allowed to act as middlemen between our voice and our vote. Our bill focuses on incentivizing states to enact ballot harvesting bans by prohibiting federal taxpayer dollars from going to states that allow ballot harvesting to occur.

As we quickly approach election day, with voting already underway in some states, here are some tips to ensure your vote is counted: If you are not voting in person, either deliver your ballot directly to an official ballot box or polling station, or put it in the mail and trust the Postal Service to deliver it. In many localities, you can even track your ballot after it is mailed. Don't be careless with your ballot. There is too much at stake.

Rodney Davis is the U.S. representative for Illinois's 13th Congressional District. Tulsi Gabbard is the U.S. representative for Hawaii's Second Congressional District.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.