What Is Ballot Harvesting? Trump Claims Voting Method Is 'Rampant With Fraud'

President Donald Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House on April 14. Trump recently sent tweets out against the practice of ballot harvesting and the use of mail-in ballots. MANDEL NGAN/Getty

President Donald Trump sent out a tweet Tuesday claiming that ballot harvesting is "rampant with fraud" and that the United States "must have voter I.D."

The president's full tweet stated: "Get rid of ballot harvesting, it is rampant with fraud. The USA must have voter I.D., the only way to get an honest count!"


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2020

Ballot harvesting is the practice of workers or volunteers going to places of residences to collect early-voting or mail-in ballots and depositing them at official voting sites. This is designed to accommodate voters who have limited access to voting sites "because of geographic location, physical disabilities, or the burden of buying stamps," according to New York magazine.While ballot harvesting is not legal in all states, some people feel that given the current pandemic, it would be an invaluable tool to ensure the most vulnerable registered voters can vote while keeping safe at the same time.

Opponents say that ballot harvesting provides the opportunity of fraud as those who collect the votes can illegally influence voters, according to the Texas Tribune. What further complicates the practice is if workers are paid per ballot that they collect, which was legal in Texas prior to 2013.

There is no evidence of rampant ballot harvesting fraud in the United States. The most recent ballot harvesting fraud case was in 2018 involving Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative who worked for Mark Harris, a Republican congressional candidate in North Carolina, who has been charged with election fraud for having paid employees to collect ballots in the state, even though it is illegal for anyone to collect a ballot from a voter other than a close family member or guardian. Allegedly, some ballots were held at Dowless' home for days, and at times they were even filled out to favor Republicans, according to testimony from one of Dowless' employees.

Trump tweeted out Saturday his views on mail-in ballots as well: "Mail in ballots substantially increases the risk of crime and VOTER FRAUD!"

Mail in ballots substantially increases the risk of crime and VOTER FRAUD!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2020

According to The New York Times, while studies have shown that findings of voter fraud in the United States are extremely rare, experts agree "that the mail voting system is more vulnerable to fraud than voting in person."

"Election fraud in the United States is very rare, but the most common type of such fraud in the United States involves absentee ballots. Sensible rules for handling of absentee ballots make sense, not only to minimize the risk of ballot tampering but to ensure that voters cast valid ballots," Richard Hansen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, told the Times.