A U.S. congresswoman said on Tuesday that a Biden executive order could potentially use taxpayer dollars to fund the use of ballot harvesting, which could include the use of unsupervised ballot drop boxes, in U.S. elections — leaving election integrity experts highly concerned about how this could lead to potential voter fraud.
During a panel discussion at the America First Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) described her primary concerns about election integrity after her own House race in 2020 turned out much closer than anticipated due to irregular election returns.
“This is what worries me: After all that has been done [to ban “Zuckerbucks”], President Biden signed an executive order taking $1 billion in taxpayer money — not in private money from Mark Zuckerberg — and is putting it into vote harvesting schemes using HUD, the Small Business Administration, and any bureaucratic arm of the federal government they can use in key areas around our communities to try to get votes out through harvesting and intimidation and manipulation of the people in these vulnerable areas,” she said. “This is something that we think is federal overreach. It’s a misuse of our tax dollars, but also it’s an attempt to federalize our elections insidiously through the back door.”
Ballot (or “vote”) harvesting is a highly controversial practice in which political operatives collect absentee ballots from the private residences of voters and transfer them directly to a polling place or election office. Some ballot harvesting efforts have also used ballot drop boxes, which resemble public mailboxes, in which anyone can put in ballots.
Due to the high chance of these practices being used for voter fraud, many states have laws prohibiting such practices.
In March 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that Tenney claimed is being used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to authorize using federal dollars to set up voter registration drives in certain public housing developments, including the use of ballot drop boxes.
John R. Lott is an economist and founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center. In an exclusive interview with The Washington Stand, he expressed alarm at the prospect of increasing the use of ballot drop boxes. “We haven’t previously had ballot boxes that would be left out in public for people to go and put ballots in,” he said. “In fact, there’s really no country in the world that has had that previously.”
Lott went on to note how much of an outlier the Left’s position on election integrity is compared to other countries. “The whole debate last year in Texas where the Democrats walked out of the state legislature — what they were particularly upset about was the legislation that Republicans were putting forward to say that ballot drop boxes could only be out in public between 6 a.m. and 9 or 10 p.m. at night and that they had to be monitored at all times. I can’t find another country in the world that doesn’t have strict chain of custody regulations with regard to ballot boxes.”
“The concern is that you’re not going to have the people whose ballots it is who are going to be putting them in the ballot boxes, and that creates all sorts of issues,” he continued. “It creates issues about buying people’s votes, it creates issues about actually voting for other people, sometimes.”
Lott went on to describe how elections laws, particularly in blue states, have changed in recent years to allow for some ballot harvesting practices and the use of drop boxes, and that voter integrity issues in America stretch back to at least the 19th century.
“It’s been changing the last few years,” he said. “You’ve had California and a few other states which have changed laws that have been in effect for many, many, many years. The issue of vote buying has been something that Americans have dealt with for a long time.”
“People don’t realize the history in the United States,” Lott explained. “For example, most people think we’ve had secret ballots forever. In fact, the first state to have secret ballots was Kentucky in 1892, and the last state to move to secret ballots was South Carolina in 1950. One of the main reasons why they moved to secret ballots was because you used to have a ballot box that you would have at the front of a room, and people would drop in colored pieces of paper based on what parties they were voting for. And you’d have representatives for the parties standing on either side of the ballot box and they would pay people based on what color paper [the voters] would put in so they could monitor them. One of the reasons why we went to secret ballots was to stop people being paid for voting.”
Lott pointed to recent research that confirms the importance of using supervised polling places to conduct fair elections. “In fact, academic research that I’ve done shows that when states move to secret ballots, there was about a 10-12% drop in voter turnout because some people, when they weren’t getting paid to vote any longer, didn’t bother to vote. It’s also the reason why we used to have much stricter rules for absentee ballots.”
All of this leads to perhaps the most important election integrity question in recent memory: is there proof that illegal ballot harvesting and drop box use occurred in the 2020 election?
“I have peer-reviewed an academic study that’s forthcoming in a journal that there’s evidence from many sources that there were a lot of excess votes that occurred in different states,” he said. The forthcoming study found evidence that between 146,000 and 334,000 potentially fraudulent votes may have been cast for Biden in the 2020 presidential election in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect that the Biden executive order was issued in March 2021, not 2022. Also, the article was updated to clarify that it is Rep. Tenney who claimed that HUD is involved.]