PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - President Trump contends mail-in voting opens the door to widescale fraud, while elections departments here in Pennsylvania maintain that it is safe and reliable. But one area of concern has been the practice of ballot harvesting — collecting ballots and mailing them in batches.
There's a controversial video that's gone viral out of Minneapolis that purports to show ballot harvesting, but there's also disagreement about whether it's happening and whether there are sufficient safeguards against it.
An undercover video purports to show a man engaging in the illegal practice of ballot harvesting, paying voters for blank mail-in ballots, filling them out and mailing them en mass.
"Ballot harvesting is a concern of mine because I'm worried about folks violating the law and illegally canceling out the votes of legitimate voters," said Allegheny County Elections Board member Sam DeMarco.
The video's authenticity is questionable, and it's illegal in Pennsylvania to forge a ballot or to mail anyone else's but your own. But while DeMarco believes the county has safeguards in place, he says it can't fully stop people from breaking the law.
"With ballot harvesting and things like that, I'm concerned about intimidation, coercion, things of that nature. It could be by your employer, could by be a union leader, or union boss -- could be anybody," DeMarco says.
But Washington County Election Director Melanie Ostrander says she doesn't think it's a real threat. Ostrander says there are protections against operatives filing out ballots in places like nursing homes. Anyone assisting someone filling out a ballot application must sign a form identifying themselves as a designated agent.
"(There's) paperwork that the voter and the helper have to complete when the absentee application is filled out to prevent someone from completing the application without the voter knowing," says Ostrander.
And Duquesne law professor Joe Mistick says ballot harvesting has become a thing of the past.
"Back when you had ward leaders who would go to what we would call "the old folks' home" in those days, and make sure that everybody had an absentee ballot, check it out, sort of help them vote and then take all those ballots and deliver them down to the election office -- well, that's just not the case anymore. Can't happen anymore," said Mistick.
The controversial video was put out by the group Project Veritas whose videos have been questioned in the past. But people like Joe Mistick believe that in addition to safeguards, there are just too many eyes and ears on both sides of this election for people to try to pull this off.
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