Recently passed legislation in Mississippi that aims to ban ballot harvesting is facing legal challenges from civil rights organizations, alleging that it would disproportionately impact minority voters and those with disabilities. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Mississippi Center for Justice, ACLU, ACLU-MS, and Disability Rights Mississippi have filed a federal lawsuit against Senate Bill 2358, which prevents third-party collection and delivery of absentee ballots. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves supports the legislation, stating that ballot harvesting could be exploited by bad actors to undermine the democratic process.
The governor’s office asserts that the legislation is necessary to protect vulnerable voters, particularly the elderly, from potential manipulation. However, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that the law would disenfranchise minorities and individuals with disabilities, accusing anti-voter politicians of denying them a fair voice in government and criminalizing volunteers who assist in delivering absentee ballots.
While proponents of the ban highlight concerns about potential abuses and attempts to subvert the electoral process, opponents argue that it hampers access to voting and diminishes democracy. They view the legislation as part of a broader political power struggle, with national Democrats advocating for federal control over elections and pushing for ballot harvesting in various states.
The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) has also criticized the law, using it as an opportunity to challenge Governor Reeves and support their candidate, Brandon Presley. They accuse Reeves of attempting to consolidate power and evade accountability, referencing a recent poll suggesting that a significant percentage of Mississippi GOP voters are crossing party lines to support Presley’s campaign focused on combating corruption and prioritizing the interests of working people.
It’s worth noting that Mississippi is not alone in implementing a ban on ballot harvesting. Over 30 other states have already enacted restrictions or outright bans on the practice, with some even making it a criminal offense. States like Arizona and Texas have experienced legal cases and arrests related to alleged unlawful ballot collection.
Interestingly, there appears to be a shifting stance among Republican Party leaders regarding mail voting and ballot harvesting. Former President Donald Trump, who previously expressed skepticism about mail voting, has now called for donors to contribute to his “ballot harvesting fund.” The Republican National Committee Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, has announced a “Bank Your Vote” initiative for 2024, emphasizing the party’s support for in-person early voting, absentee voting, and legal ballot harvesting.
The changing Republican stance on the issue has drawn criticism from Democrats, who accuse the party of spreading misinformation about elections and demonizing mail ballots and ballot collection. Democrats argue that Republicans are now attempting to sow chaos and gain power, contradicting their past messaging against mail voting.