Mail Ballot Drop Boxes: Another Option to Cast Your Ballot!
Posted by Bridge Alliance Education Fund on September 24, 2020 at 4:00 PM
By Sarah Berlin, Program Director of the Voting Information Project. Reposted from: Democracy Works
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have expanded access to voting by mail in order to provide voters with another option for safely casting their ballots. As part of that expansion, more states than ever are planning to utilize mail ballot drop boxes for the General Election. Concerns about whether the US Postal Service will be able to deliver mail ballots in time to be counted has brought additional attention to using mail ballot drop boxes. Below are answers to commonly asked questions about what mail ballot drop boxes are, who can use them, and how they ensure your vote will get counted.
WHAT IS A MAIL BALLOT DROP BOX?
A mail ballot drop box is a secured, locked box where voters can return absentee or mail ballots in signed and sealed envelopes, rather than putting it through the mail. Drop boxes are typically placed outside of public buildings like libraries, schools, and county offices, but sometimes they can be inside of buildings. Ballots are regularly retrieved from the boxes by election office staff.
WHICH STATES USE DROP BOXES?
Several states, including Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, have successfully used drop boxes for years. In Colorado, 75% of all mail ballots are returned via drop boxes. While states are still finalizing their plans for the general election, we anticipate that the majority of states will offer drop boxes. As of August, Democracy Works has confirmed that at least the following 23 states will have drop boxes in November: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin.
CAN I USE ANY DROP BOX?
No. You can only return your mail or absentee ballot to your designated drop box or drop boxes. Depending on where you are registered to vote, you'll only be able to return your ballot to the drop box or drop boxes in the town, county, or state where you are registered.
For example, if you're registered to vote at your permanent address in Iowa, but you requested an absentee ballot to be delivered to you in Connecticut, you can't return your ballot to a drop box in Connecticut.
ARE DROP BOXES SECURE?
States have different specific requirements for drop boxes, but across the board, drop boxes are a secure option for returning your ballot. Drop boxes are locked at all times, and may be monitored by video surveillance or staffed by an election worker.
For example, in California, outdoor drop boxes must be securely fastened to prevent moving the box or tampering with it, and all drop boxes have to be secured by a lock, which only election officials and the designated ballot retriever can unlock. In the 10 days leading up to the election, ballots have to be retrieved from unstaffed drop boxes every 24 hours.
In Colorado, drop boxes are “sturdy, metallic, weather-resistant, and are bolted to the ground.” According to Colorado law, drop boxes must be kept under 24-hour video surveillance, and they are emptied every 24 hours by a team of bipartisan election judges.
According to a company that manufactures drop boxes for 10 states, the boxes themselves can weigh up to 600 lbs and are designed to be waterproof and tamper-proof. In fact, one of their drop boxes in Washington still protected its contents when it was hit by an SUV last year.
SHOULD I USE A DROP BOX INSTEAD OF MAILING MY BALLOT OR VOTING IN PERSON?
Depending on where you live, you may have multiple options for voting this year, including voting by mail, early voting, and voting in-person on election day. If you live in an area with drop boxes for mail ballots, that is one more option available to you. It’s up to you what works for your life and what you feel comfortable with.
Check How to Vote to find out what options are available in your state and to find out how to contact your election officials for more information.
WHAT IS DEMOCRACY WORKS DOING TO HELP VOTERS WITH ALL THIS?
The Voting Information Project (VIP) is working with state and local election offices to collect and publish drop boxes in every state that is using them in November. In the coming weeks, you’ll be able to search your address on GetToThePolls.com to see the drop boxes, early vote sites, and election day polling locations that are available to you.
Outside of VIP, our Ballot Scout program is working to ensure that voters and election officials in participating jurisdictions can track the mail ballots that do go through the mail. Finally, our How to Vote product helps voters navigate the voting process and provides them with information on registration deadlines, early voting availability, information for Military and Overseas Voters, and more.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are strictly those of the author and do not represent the views of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the Bridge Alliance, or the Bridge Alliance’s member organizations. Additionally, the Bridge Alliance Education Fund makes no representations as to the accuracy of this post’s contents.