North Carolina race shines light on 'ballot harvesting'

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) An investigation into whether political operatives in North Carolina illegally collected and possibly stole absentee ballots in a still-undecided congressional race has drawn attention to a little-known political tool called ballot harvesting.

It's a practice long used by special-interest groups and both major political parties.

It's viewed either as a voter service that boosts turnout or a nefarious activity that subjects voters to intimidation and makes elections vulnerable to fraud.

The groups rely on data showing which voters requested absentee ballots, but have not turned them in.

They then go door-to-door and offer to collect and turn in those ballots for the voters, often dozens or hundreds at a time.

In North Carolina, officials are investigating whether Republican political operatives harvested ballots and then did not turn them in.