Fact Check-No evidence of widespread ballot 'harvesting' ahead of the U.S midterm election

There is no evidence to support claims made by social media users that there is a nationwide effort to “harvest ballots” that will result in massive voter fraud in the 2022 U.S. midterm elections this November.

“The only way Democrats will win any midterm elections is if they steal them like they stole the 2020 presidential election. Stuffing ballot boxes, ballot harvesting, gerrymandering, and the lonist goes on and on,” reads a tweet. “Ballot harvesting is laughably corrupt and it is legal in California,” reads another (, (, (

A Reuters Fact Check explainer exploring examples of how and why voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the U.S. ahead of the midterms can be seen (here).

False claims pedaled by former U.S. President Donald Trump and his followers blaming widespread voting fraud the 2020 election results have been rejected by courts, state governments and members of his own former administration (here).


There are occasions where a person delivering a ballot for somebody else is a standard and legal election process.

Dropping off ballots on behalf of someone else or “ballot collection” is legal in 32 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (here).

Laws around ballot collection vary from state to state. In some states, anyone can drop off a ballot on behalf of another person. In other states, ballot collection is limited to family members or caregivers. Nine states restrict the number of ballots a person can drop off.

An authorized person can legally drop off a ballot for someone else for a range of reasons, including if a person is disabled, elderly, or unable to leave their house, Lorraine Minnite, an associate professor of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers University, told Reuters.

As another example of where ballots may be delivered on behalf of others, Jacqueline De Leon, a staff attorney who leads the Voting Rights Practice group at the Native American Rights Fund, said that ballot collection is frequently used on tribal lands to make voting more accessible because there’s no residential mail delivery and polling places, post offices and ballot drop boxes are usually a far distance from reservations (here).


Obstacles to voter fraud were explored in detail by Reuters Fact Check (here).

Sean Morales-Doyle, the director of the Voting Rights program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a New York based nonprofit institute, also told Reuters there are safeguards in place that vary across states to protect against voter fraud during ballot collection.

He said those “safeguards” include voter signatures, providing personal identifying information and barcoding ballot envelopes so they can be tracked. “The safeguards seem to be working across states,” said Morales-Doyle. “The rare instances when someone does seem to attempt to abuse the process, they are caught and prosecuted.”

In California, for example, when an absentee ballot is received at the election office, an election official must note that the ballot has been received in the voter registration system. Then, an election official verifies the signature on every ballot identification envelope by matching it with a signature in the voter’s registration record. If the signature is missing or does not match the one on file, the election official must reach out to the voter within 24 hours to allow the voter to fix the missing or unmatched signature (here).

As another example, Arizona has the same system of matching the signature on the ballot’s envelope to the signature on file for the voter. If there’s any concerns about the validity of the signature, an election official will contact the voter to verify the signature (here). A person who fraudulently signed a ballot application and a ballot return envelope would be violating the law (here). In Arizona, it’s a class five felony to falsify and drop off a ballot, meaning the consequence would be a fine of up to 150,000 dollars and a maximum sentence of two years and six months in state prison (here).


Voter fraud during ballot collection is “rare, but it can happen,” said Amanda Zoch, a project manager in the elections and redistricting program at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

One such case happened in a 2018 North Carolina congressional election where an operative for Republican candidate Mark Harris hired workers to fill out fraudulent absentee ballots and deliver them to post offices (here). The operative was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice and the state ordered a rerun of the election in 2019, where Harris was not a candidate and another Republican candidate won (here), (here), (here).

Another case happened in Arizona in the 2020 primary election, where a woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail for collecting four absentee ballots from acquaintances in San Luis, Arizona and leaving them at a drop off bin. (here). In Arizona, it is only legal for someone to drop off ballots for a family member, household member or caregiver.

According to Minnite, experts agree there is no evidence of systematic voter fraud happening during absentee voting. A 2020 analysis on mail ballot security by the Brennan Center for Justice included a study by News21 to analyze all cases of election fraud from 2000 to 2012. They found 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud from 2000 to 2012, a time when 146 million Americans were registered to vote (, (here), (here).

Justin Grimmer, a political science professor at Stanford University, pointed to another report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that there were 185 cases filed to the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices related to election fraud from 2001 to 2017 (here).

“2000 MULES”

Some of the online claims (here), (here), (here) mention “2000 Mules,” a documentary by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who claims that 2,000 “mules” were hired by unnamed nonprofits to “harvest ballots” or place fraudulent absentee ballots at drop boxes across the country in the 2020 presidential election.

A Reuters fact check article previously found that the film does not provide verifiable evidence of voter fraud (here).

For example, the film uses surveillance footage evidence mainly from Georgia to prove that “mules” were dropping off fake ballots, ignoring the fact that in Georgia it’s legal for family members or caregivers to drop of ballots for other people.

It also disregards absentee ballot voting safety mechanism like signature verification, providing personal identifying information, tracking ballots, and that dropping off fake ballots is a crime with severe penalties, which makes “ballot harvesting” a rare phenomenon.

Other publication explored the dubious claims made in the documentary (here), (here), (here).

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here .