Republicans can’t count on ballot harvesting to win elections – here’s what they must do instead
08/11/2023 // JD Heyes // Views

Republicans have been grumbling about Democratic vote- and ballot-harvesting operations that most likely cost Donald Trump the 2020 election and tempered Republican gains in 2022, but trying to duplicate the effort is the wrong strategy, a new analysis argues.

"We understand the impulse among some Republicans to throw up their hands in frustration when it comes to ballot harvesting. They advocate rapidly deploying their own ballot-harvesting operations in advance of the 2024 election," write Joseph Arlinghaus and William Doyle in an analysis published a few weeks ago by The Federalist. "Some have likened it to a nuclear arms race.

"But the nuclear weapons analogy is deeply flawed. Nuclear weapons are arguably a legitimate means of waging war, whereas universal mail-in ballots should never be legitimized as a way of deciding elections due to the high potential for various types of election fraud and uncontrollable electioneering and corruption of voters," the analysis continued.

A more fitting analogy would be biological weapons, which are widely recognized as an illegitimate means of warfare. When faced with adversaries developing such weapons, the most effective strategy is not to counter with the same means, hoping to convince them to abandon their efforts. Instead, the approach should be to take all necessary measures to disrupt and neutralize their biological weapons capabilities, the two analysts argued.

Given the current political and legal environment, it seems unlikely that the "emergency" election measures implemented in response to Covid-19 in 2020 will ever be fully rolled back. These measures have effectively materialized an objective that Democrats have been striving for over many years, they note.

That objective is an electoral landscape where factors such as polls, historical trends, economic issues, messaging, voter enthusiasm, candidate quality, traditional get-out-the-vote efforts, candidate debates, and voter persuasion become less significant in determining election outcomes.

"All that ultimately matters in ballot-harvesting states is the number of mail-in ballots that can be distributed, harvested, and counted in local election offices by partisan election activists over the weeks and months preceding Election Day," the analysis continued.

The "ballots out, ballots in" harvesting machine has become a significant factor in determining the electoral margin in numerous states. This new machine surpasses the "margin of voter fraud" that most Republican election strategists used to anticipate having to overcome in past elections, particularly in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, the pair noted.

Republicans find themselves at a critical disadvantage in the ballot-harvesting game, and it's crucial to comprehend the reasons behind this situation because, they say, this uncomfortable reality is unlikely to shift in the foreseeable future.

"Our research shows Democrats’ ballot-harvesting operations played a key role in President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 through the Center for Tech and Civic Life’s $332 million Covid-19 Response Grant Program," said the report. "The operations appear to some analysts to have been largely responsible for Republicans’ disappointing showing in the 2022 midterms."

Of Republicans who have recently come around to engaging in ballot harvesting, the two analysts noted that none of them have put forth a realistic plan for how it would work -- and certainly nothing on the scale of the Democratic operations nationwide.

"Democrats currently execute a ballot-harvesting game vastly more complex, sophisticated, expensive, and labor-intensive than most Republicans even remotely understand," they said.

The Democrats' formidable election-industrial complex comprises two categories of institutions: national entities dedicated to election strategy and policy, and local entities, such as public-sector unions, focused on recruiting and deploying boots-on-the-ground election activists, they write.

"Public-sector unions comprise a vast potential workforce to aid in solidifying the grip of Democrats on the election process in their states through the sheer manpower they can deploy for vote canvassing, voter registration, assistance in early voting, and ballot harvesting," they said, adding that the current system in place for Democrats was decades in the making.

As such, in conclusion, they laid out what Republicans must do to win: "Cheating, disenfranchising legitimate voters, empowering corrupt politicians and partisan activists, and making our elections less secure is not a prudent, rational, or legitimate path forward. Opposing universal mail-in voting and disrupting Democrats’ ballot harvesting in state legislatures and the courts is not the stance of 'principled losers' but rather the game that uncompromising Republicans must play to win."

Sources include

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