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Banning ballot harvesting boosts elections integrity

When Governor Ducey began this year’s legislative session with his State of State Address, the big news was that our budget was balanced but education funding was still on the table. Prop 123, approved by voters earlier this month, provided a major solution.

While these policy victories are important and Gov. Ducey and the Republicans in the Legislature are being widely commended for their accomplishments, there’s another victory to be celebrated.

From the perspective of a leader of an organization dedicated to true voter engagement, the new law banning ballot harvesting will have a positive effect on our future elections.

Robert Graham

Robert Graham

Ballot harvesting is a campaign tactic that exploits voters in their own doorways, and it’s a tactic that Democrats and their leftist allies use to intimidate voters and cajole them into handing over their ballots. These paid campaign operatives, armed with the technology to generate daily lists of voters who have not yet mailed in their early ballots, travel door to door and neighborhood by neighborhood looking for unvoted ballots that can be used to support the election or re-election of their bosses.

You do know that every ballot already has a postage-paid return envelope that costs the voter nothing to mail, right?  But that’s a meaningless irony to a harvester who stands to profit from accumulating more and more ballots.

While poll workers and elections officials are trained professionals who can be held accountable, harvesters have no credentials, training, ethics standards, oaths of office or even identification. There is no way to even know who is responsible if those thousands of collected ballots go missing or contain ballots that have been manipulated in some way.

It’s an indefensible practice, and the opportunities for violations of privacy, intimidation and outright fraud are immense. These ballot harvesting problems are not isolated incidents, as elections officials have seen individuals turn in thousands of ballots at a time, election after election.

Ballot harvesting was becoming Arizona’s version of Chicago-style “knock and grab” voter turnout campaigns, where operatives scoured neighborhoods on Election Day to physically confront and escort voters to the polls.

Democrats claim ballot harvesting is a necessary solution to a specific problem: low voter turnout that has plagued Arizona Democrats for years.

But the best solution to the problem of low voter turnout is simple: How about better candidates and competitive elections to engage party voters in primary elections? Just ask Richard Carmona, the Democrats’ 2012 U.S. Senate candidate whose hand-picked nomination essentially excluded voters from meaningful participation in the Democrat primary. Or Fred DuVal, who suffered the same fate of having Democrat leaders hand him the 2014 nomination for governor, uncontested, leaving him woefully unprepared to engage voters in the general election.

The public’s confidence in our elections is the hallmark of the legitimacy of our government, and the ban on ballot harvesting will contribute greatly to protecting the rights and interests of Arizona’s voters.

Robert Graham is chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.

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