Michigan Allows ‘Ballot Harvesting’ for More than Four Days

A box of ballots mailed in for the Washington state primary election are shown Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash. Washington is a vote-by-mail state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

A Michigan court decision that will extend the deadline for postmarked mail-in ballots to be received up to 14 days after Election Day will also allow ballots to be submitted by third parties — a practice called “ballot harvesting” — during a specific period.

As Breitbart News reported earlier Friday, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that mail-in ballots postmarked by November 2 — the day before Election Day — will still be counted in Michigan in the 2020 election.

In addition, Judge Stephens said that strangers can return other people’s ballots — normally a felony — between 5:01 p.m. on Friday, October 30, and 8:00 p.m. on November 3, the moment that polling places are supposed to close on Election Day.

Judge Stephens wrote:

This court enjoins MCL 168.932(f) in this election from 5:00 p.m. Friday October 30, 2020 until the close of the polls on November 3, 2020, in so far as it limits the class of persons who may render an absent voter assistance. As a result, a voter casting an absent voter ballot in the November 2020 general election may select any individual the voter chooses to render assistance in returning an absent voter ballot, but only for the limited time period when assistance from the clerk is not required, i.e., between 5:01 p.m. on the Friday before the election and the close of polls on Election Day.

The ruling means that anyone may return the ballot of another voter in that period of time, not just those specified by law (such as immediate family members).

Normally, a voter can seek assistance from the clerk until 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. The judge reasoned that the coronavirus pandemic, among other factors, made that an unconstitutional burden on absentee voters:

[I]n ordinary times, the statute likely poses no constitutional issue. These are not, however, ordinary times. As noted, there are documented instances in this case of absentee voters who received their absent voter ballot shortly before the August 2020 election, despite a timely request for such a ballot. As noted, a voter is only guaranteed to receive help from the clerk if the voter makes a request before 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. The very real risk of receiving an absent voter ballot in an untimely fashion increases the risk that voters who are otherwise without a statutorily enumerated person to help return their ballot will not be able to take advantage of the fail-safe option of receiving assistance from the clerk. One can think of residents in an assisted living facility, the access to which has been extremely limited during the pandemic, who might fall into this category. Additionally, prospective absentee voters who simply wish to take their time in weighing which candidates to vote for run the risk of missing out on the clerk- supplied assistance. Such individuals might be hesitant, or unable, to receive assistance from family members or household members due to health concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Or the health risks inherent with COVID-19 might prevent such a voter from returning a ballot in-person. Therefore, and under the current circumstances, the Court is convinced that the time deadline imposed on the fail-safe option of seeking assistance from the clerk risks leaving too many voters without the opportunity of receiving assistance in returning their ballots.

The judge did not limit the number of ballots that an individual may return for another person, nor did the judge impose an identification requirement or a background check of any kind.

Though Republicans have complained that ballot harvesting has vast potential for fraud, the judge declared that “there is little evidence to suggest that fraud would increase with a larger pool of persons eligible to assist absentee voters.”

As Breitbart News has previously explained:

“Ballot harvesting” was legalized in California in 2016, and first used in the 2018 midterm elections. It allows anyone to drop off someone else’s mail-in ballot at a polling station. There is no process for vetting or verifying those delivering the ballots — no background checks or identification requirements. Democrats dropped hundreds of thousands of ballots off at polling stations in 2018, helping Democrats as they flipped seven Republican seats.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has sought to legalize ballot harvesting nationwide in her coronavirus relief legislation.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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