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EDITORIAL: Democrats suddenly up in arms about ballot harvesting

Democrats across the country have spent the past four years attempting to dismantle safeguards intended to promote election integrity, arguing that such precautions actually represent a nefarious Republican plot to suppress voter turnout. But their self-serving rhetoric evaporates when the GOP uses their own tactics against them.

California Democrats are up in arms about ballot drop boxes that Republicans have placed in strategic locations in three highly contested congressional districts. Attorney General Xavier Becerra this week threatened criminal charges against those responsible for the boxes.

Republicans on Tuesday said they will no longer place the word “official” on the boxes so they won’t be confused with those used by county registrars, The Associated Press reported. But party officials said they plan to expand the practice. “It gives voters another opportunity to be able to turn in their ballots if they choose to do so,” California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas said. “This is just another option.”

The ire from Democrats is instructive — and highly ironic. To ensure a proper chain of command, many states have long outlawed “ballot harvesting,” mandating — with a few exceptions for the disabled or the elderly — that voters return absentee or mail-in ballots themselves. In recent years, however, Democrats have aggressively promoted the legalization of harvesting under the dubious notion that it’s apparently too complex for many voters to figure out how to return a mail-in ballot. During a special legislative session in July, Nevada lawmakers approved the practice, which would allow special-interest groups to go door-to-door to collect ballots for delivery to election officials.

The potential for mischief should be obvious.

The GOP drop boxes are simply a logical extension of laws that promote ballot harvesting. The AP notes that California election officials claim those who deliver ballots for others must also sign any ballots they turn in. But “a 2018 state law bars ballots from being disqualified if they fail to include these signatures.” Oops. Similarly, Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, refused a request from the secretary of state for a regulation requesting that Nevada ballot harvesters register with election officials.

California Democrats have every right to question what might happen to ballots dropped into an unsecure GOP collection bin. But it’s more than a bit disingenuous to complain about the issue when they’ve actively worked to alter long-standing election law to encourage harvesting in the first place. Ballot harvesting does indeed threaten election integrity, and the practice should be outlawed — no matter which side is taking advantage of it.

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