Newsletter and Subscription Sign Up

Election 2020: What is Ballot Harvesting?

Published Thursday Oct 29, 2020

Author By Meg McIntyre, Granite State News Collaborative

Election 2020: What is Ballot Harvesting?

As the last few weeks before the 2020 general election begin to slip by, speculation and misinformation continue to circulate around the voting process in the era of COVID-19.

Recent events in California, where controversy has emerged over unofficial absentee ballot drop boxes deployed by the state’s Republican party, have put the spotlight on the concept of ballot harvesting or ballot collection, which occurs when someone submits a signed and sealed absentee ballot to a drop off location or mail center on behalf of someone else.

A few states, including California, allow anyone to collect ballots for drop off, the idea being that some voters may not have an immediate family member available to do so for them, as is the restriction in many states. But the practice has raised concerns about election security, especially as some campaigns and political parties use ballot collection as a strategy to get out the vote.

According to Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan, it’s an issue that hasn’t cropped up in the Granite State, where absentee ballots can only be returned on behalf of someone else by a state-approved “delivery agent.” 

Under the state’s election procedure manual, that includes the voter’s spouse, parent, sibling, child, grandchild, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, stepparent, or stepchild. Other acceptable delivery agents include a nursing home and elder care facility administrators and those assisting a voter with a disability.

“Those are very limited circumstances. It’s never going to be the case where you can hand it to someone in a political party or just some sort of volunteer,” said Anna Brown, director of research and analysis for nonprofit organization Citizens Count, which focuses on providing unbiased information to NH voters.

Scanlan noted that a delivery agent dropping off a ballot for someone else must sign an affidavit and show identification to verify that they meet state requirements, which is part of the reason that ballot drop boxes must be staffed under state law. He said that allowing anyone to drop off an absentee ballot could cause some voters to doubt the security of the voting system.

“That creates an opportunity for, certainly, perception issues, but it also creates an opportunity for fraud in ways that don’t exist in New Hampshire,” Scanlan said. “ … There’s no chain of custody that is discernible, and I’m sure you can see the obvious perception issues that can go along with that. And then when you have those issues out there, you start losing integrity and confidence in the election.”

Scanlan emphasized that any voter who is unsure whether a mailing, dropbox, or other election-related communication is bonafide should contact the Secretary of State’s Office or the Attorney General. 

“Or better yet, contact your local town clerk, or moderator, or supervisors of the checklist, because those are the individuals responsible for conducting the election. They know the procedures and the processes that are in place,” he said in an interview for the NH PBS program The State We’re In. “And those are the individuals that can give you accurate information about casting your ballot and making sure that your ballot counts.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit

All Stories