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Elections Defined: Ballot Collection Laws

Ballot collecting refers to laws that permit someone other than the voter to return a voted ballot on the voter’s behalf.

By Wendy Underhill  |  June 20, 2024

Elections Defined Video Series

This series of short videos features NCSL Director of Elections and Redistricting Wendy Underhill talking about some of the key steps of election administration you may not have heard of—from ballot curing to voter list maintenance to what it means to be a poll worker, and everything in between. View the complete series. 

Ballot collecting is the formal phrase for what’s sometimes referred to as ballot harvesting. Specifically, ballot collection laws permit someone other than the voter to return a voted ballot on the voter’s behalf.

When that person is a family member, many states see this as a convenience and explicitly permitted in state law. When it can be anyone the voter chooses, red flags go up for some: Are the collectors going beyond doing the voter a favor to influencing their choices?

It’s not uncommon for states to have laws that restrict any single person from returning more than one ballot—or perhaps a handful of them—on behalf of others. Whatever you call it, the key for each state is to be clear well ahead of the election on what is permitted and what is not.

Ready for more information on election administration? View the complete series for info on the topics below. Still have questions? More details can be found on these and other topics through NCSL’s election resources.

  • Ballot Duplication.
  • Ballot Collecting.
  • Ballot Curing. 
  • Provisional Ballots.
  • Pre-Processing Ballots.
  • Poll workers vs. Poll Watchers.
  • Post-election Audits.
  • Canvassing and Certification.
  • Results Reporting.
  • Voter ID.
  • Voter Registration List Maintenance.
  • Contact NCSL

  • For more information on this topic, use this form to reach NCSL staff.