(NEXSTAR) – For many voters, election day comes with the same work, school and other demands of a normal Tuesday. You may find yourself wondering if someone – perhaps a family member – might be able to drop off a ballot for you. The answer is yes in most states, but the guidelines vary.
Texas election code states that a household member or a family member at least in the “second degree of affinity,” such as a brother-in-law or stepsister, or in the “third degree of consanguinity,” such as an aunt or nephew, can be designated to drop off a ballot.
In California, voters can choose someone else to drop off their ballot as long as that person isn’t paid by the ballot to do so, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “Among the 31 states where a voter can authorize someone to return a ballot on their behalf, nine limit how many ballots an authorized person can return and four limit how long those ballots can remain in the authorized person’s possession before being returned,” the NCSL says. “These limits are based on the concern that saving people the task of returning their ballot can bleed into encouraging them to vote a certain way.”
Other states, such as Kansas, require county election offices to verify that the signature on the advance ballot matches voter records. Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the following states don’t specify whether or not someone else can return an absentee or mail ballot on behalf of a voter: Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Viginia and Wyoming.
Pennsylvania law implies that only the voter can return their ballot, according to the NCSL. In Alabama, only the voter is allowed to return an absentee ballot. In recent years, a number of conspiracy theories have targeted the act of designating someone else to drop off a ballot when time or other factors prevent the voter from voting on time. Such theories often refer to ballot collection pejoratively as “ballot harvesting.” Voters increasingly used drop boxes in 2020 during the pandemic, a trend that former President Donald Trump and his supporters criticized, saying it increased the risk of fraud.
Election experts say voter fraud is rare, but a discredited film in the wake of President Biden’s election victory made unfounded claims of widespread fraud by Democrat-linked “mules” paid to collect and drop off ballots, according to the Associated Press. The film didn’t show any proof that the people were voting illegally, and a state investigation later determined that one of the “mules” was legally returning the ballots for relatives. An AP survey of election officials across the country in May, 2022 found that no widespread problems in the 2020 presidential election were linked to the use of drop boxes.