Although widely practiced and rarely found to be abused, the rule permitting a third party to collect and return multiple ballots remains a source of partisan dispute. Those fights are likely to continue up to Election Day as states adjust their laws for the pandemic.
More than half of states allow a third party to collect ballots. And political groups and campaigns from both parties have run ballot-collection programs aimed at boosting turnout and ensuring voters who are older, homebound, disabled, or live far from U.S. postal services can get their ballot returned…
California since 2016 has allowed for someone to collect an unlimited number of ballots from voters, though it does bar someone from being paid based on how many ballots they return.
California’s law became the source of controversy and GOP criticism after Democrats used the practice to their advantage in 2018, flipping Republican-held congressional seats after a flood absentee ballots came in before the deadline and were counted after Election Day.
Richard L. Hasen, a law professor and elections expert at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, said that despite then-U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan declaring it “bizarre,” there was no evidence in those contests that any ballots were tampered with.
“On the one hand, there’s going to be much more need for the use of absentee ballots because of the potential safety concerns of voting in person,” Hasen said of the 2020 election. “On the other hand, there are going to be more people who are going to be receiving absentee ballots and more potential for interfering with them.”
Hasen said that’s particularly true for states like Nevada that plan to send ballots to voters in the mail regardless of whether they requested one.