In this June 9, 2020, file photo, a sign indicates where mail ballots may dropped off as people wait in line at one of a few in person voting places during a nearly all-mail primary election in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
New law makes it easy to vote but harder to cheat, Governor Reeves says.
On Wednesday, Governor Tate Reeves announced the signing of Senate Bill 2358 into law, banning ballot harvesting in the state of Mississippi.
Ballot harvesting is the practice of a third-party picking up or collecting a voter’s absentee ballot and delivering it to a polling place or a clerk’s office. This is often performed by political operatives or organizations. The effort has been more widely seen in other states than Mississippi.
In addition to banning ballot harvesting, the legislation sets forth that a person shall not knowingly collect and transmit a ballot that was mailed to another person, except for the following parameters:
- An election official while engaged in official duties as authorized by law.
- An employee of the United States Postal Service while engaged in official duties as authorized by law.
- Any other individual who is allowed by federal law to collect and transmit United States mail while engaged in official duties as authorized by law.
- A family member, household member, or caregiver of the person to whom the ballot was mailed.
- A common carrier that transports goods from one place to another for a fee. No parcel shall contain more than a single ballot.
Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said he is happy to learn today of Governor Reeves’ support of their efforts to ban ballot harvesting.
“A big thanks to the lead author, Sen. Jeff Tate, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, Rep. Price Wallace, and Speaker Philip Gunn for their hard work, and the team effort it took to get it done!” Watson said.
Lt. Governor Hosemann, the former Secretary of State, also celebrated the passage and signing of the bill.
“We fought for Voter ID and won. Now, we’re fighting against illegal ballot harvesting,” Lt. Governor Hosemann said. “We are grateful to Senate Elections Chairman Jeff Tate, a former election commissioner with first-hand knowledge running local elections, for shepherding this bill through the process.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), some states, such as Alabama, require that only the voter must return the ballot. Others, such as Rhode Island and Wyoming, do not explicitly specify who may or may not return a ballot on behalf of a voter.
“In 31 states, however, someone other than the voter is explicitly allowed to return a voted ballot on behalf of another voter,” NCSL said. “Many of these states limit this provision to a family member, household member or caregiver. Sixteen states allow a voter to designate someone—not necessarily a family member, household member or caregiver—to return their ballot for them.”
Governor Reeves said regardless of where you vote or how you vote, you deserve to have the utmost confidence in the integrity of the election.
“That’s because free and fair elections are a key pillar of our republic,” Governor Reeves said. “Today, Mississippi is taking another step toward upholding the absolute integrity of our election process by banning ballot harvesting across the state.”
In signing the bill, Governor Reeves explained that ballot harvesting is where bad actors can take advantage of vulnerable voters and circumvent the election process.
“This process is an open invitation for fraud and abuse and can occur without the voter ever even knowing,” Reeves said. “Across the country, we’ve seen how bad actors have used ballot harvesting to take advantage of elderly and vulnerable voters in other states, all so they can try to circumvent our democratic process and cut you out of it. But here in Mississippi, we’re just not going to let that happen. Here, we will make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Governor Reeves added that Mississippi believes in honest elections and demands election accountability.
“We reject attempts to cheat and we reject ballot harvesting,” Reeves said. “We demand election integrity and we demand accountability. In fact, 87% of all Americans oppose ballot harvesting. I stand with the vast majority of Mississippians and with the vast majority of Americans. And that’s why today I am signing Senate Bill 2358, which officially bans ballot harvesting in Mississippi.”
The Mississippi Governor noted that Senate Bill 2358 builds on other recent election integrity legislation that banned illegal aliens and non-citizens from voting and blocked Zuckerbucks (a reference to Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg’s election efforts during the 2020 cycle) from funding elections.
“And as long as I’m governor, Mississippi will continue to take a strong stand in defense of our elections so that we can ensure complete confidence in the results,” Reeves said. “Today represents another major win in this movement and I was proud to sign this legislation into law.”