Ballot Harvesting Now a Problem for Providence Progressives


When the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Republican Party’s challenge to a 100% bureaucratic change of election law, removing notary or witness requirements for mail ballots, Patrick Anderson’s Providence Journal article ended with these thoughts from progressive backers of the move:

“We are very pleased that the Republican Party’s efforts to turn the fundamental right to vote into an episode of ‘Survivor’ has failed,” said Steven Brown, executive director, ACLU of Rhode Island wrote.

League of Women Voters of Rhode Island President Jane Koster said: “Witness and notary requirements do nothing to improve the security of our elections, and now voters can cast their ballots free from the burden of fulfilling these requirements during a deadly pandemic.”

An article today by Katherine Gregg and Madeleine List follows up with a decidedly less-triumphant tone, now that progressive Senator Samuel Bell is the one whom the policy disadvantages:

A city-run apartment complex for the elderly, next to the Old Canteen on Federal Hill, has become a focal point for absentee-ballot harvesting in the Senate race between first-term Sen. Sam Bell and Providence City Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan.

In the last two weeks, 40 of the 200 or so residents of Dominica Manor have submitted “emergency mail ballot″ applications. The number has grown daily. …

Bell raises these concerns: “The practice of targeting the residents of elderly low-income housing complexes and pushing them to sign forms allowing campaigns to pick up ballots for them is at best concerning and at worst deeply immoral.

“During the last election cycle, I spoke with many voters in the low-income housing complexes who had no idea which candidates they had just voted for.”

Ryan is the insiders’ choice for the seat, and her campaign is working with “mail ballot guru Edward Cotugno.”

This little, local controversy comes on the heels of a New York Post article by Jon Levine citing an anonymous Democrat campaign operative claiming that much of his work had to do with brazen mail-ballot fraud.  The article talks about steaming open envelopes to change the ballot inside, throwing out those suspected of supporting the opposition, and more:

Hitting up assisted-living facilities and “helping” the elderly fill out their absentee ballots was a gold mine of votes, the insider said.

“There are nursing homes where the nurse is actually a paid operative. And they go room by room by room to these old people who still want to feel like they’re relevant,” said the whistleblower. “[They] literally fill it out for them.”

The problem is real, and it won’t only disadvantage conservatives.  As with many election-related policies that are sold to the public as if they will help the little guy against the moneyed special interests (such as complicated campaign finance rules), this policy will predictably have the opposite effect.

As long as the barriers to voting aren’t overtly suppressive, making it easier to cast votes will make it easier for those with get-out-the-vote (GOTV) machines to harvest them.  The surprise, here, is that a progressive machine with out-of-state funding isn’t helping Bell match his opposition.

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