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Ballot Harvesting


Ballot collecting, known commonly as ballot harvesting, is legal in California. The official purpose of the law, AB 1921, was to make sure all people can get their vote by mail ballots back to election officials, even if they cannot physically do this on their own. The reality is, in addition to helping shut-ins cast their ballots, the law has enabled political groups and unions to concentrate on swinging close elections by helping to return the ballots of targeted voters and from favorable geographical areas.


Here is a summary what the law says (main points only, link to full law is below):


  • All vote by mail ballots cast under this division shall be voted on or before the day of the election.

  • A vote by mail voter who is unable to submit their ballot may designate any person to return it to the elections official from whom it came or to the precinct board at a polling place within the jurisdiction.

  • The ballot must be received before the close of the polls on the election day.

  • The elections official shall establish procedures to track and confirm the receipt of voted vote by mail ballots and to make this information available by means of online access or phone.

  • The provisions of this section are mandatory, not directory, and a ballot shall not be counted if it is not delivered in compliance with this section.

  • A person designated to return a vote by mail ballot shall not receive any form of compensation based on the number of ballots that the person has returned and no individual, group, or organization shall provide compensation on this basis. Compensation means any form of monetary payment, goods, services, benefit, promises or offers of employment, or any other form of consideration offered to another person in exchange for returning another voter’s vote by mail ballot.

  • Any person in charge of a vote by mail ballot and who knowingly and willingly engages in criminal acts related to that ballot (including fraud, bribery, intimidation, tampering, failing to return the ballot) is subject to appropriated punishment as listed in Division 18 (commencing with Section 18000).

  • Any ballot delivered to the wrong county will be delivered to the correct county within 8 days.

  • The elections official shall maintain ballot secrecy and integrity.


In addition to the altruistic goal of helping disabled people submit their ballots, it’s imperative that all individuals, political parties and organizations that want to have an equal chance of election success should participate in ballot harvesting. Targets for collecting could include nursing and rehabilitation facilities, senior housing and individuals likely to support the group’s political views. Although the law was clearly enacted to help the results of one party, efforts around the nation have shown ballot harvesting can be used effectively by people and groups of all political viewpoints.

California ballot collection law:

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