ATLANTA — The expanded use of drop boxes for mailed ballots did not cause any widespread problems during the 2020 election, according to an Associated Press survey of state election officials across the US that revealed no cases of fraud, vandalism or theft. did not come, which could have been affected. Result.
The findings from both Republican- and Democratic-controlled states contrast with claims made by former President Donald Trump and his allies, who have sharply criticized their use and falsely claimed they were the target of fraud.
Drop boxes are considered safe and secure by many election officials, and are used to varying degrees by states across the political spectrum. Yet conspiracy theories and attempts by Republicans to eliminate or ban them have persisted since the 2020 election. This month, a conservative majority in the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that drop boxes are no longer allowed under state law and can no longer be widely used.
Drop boxes are also a focal point of the film “2,000 Mules”, which used flawed analysis of cellphone location data and ballot drop box surveillance footage to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In response to the law and conspiracy theories surrounding the drop boxes, the Associated Press sent a poll to each state’s top election office in May, asking for information about whether the boxes were tied to bogus votes or stolen ballots, Or were they boxes and ballots. The vests were damaged.
All five states answered the questions.
None of the election offices in the states that allowed the use of drop boxes in 2020 reported any cases in which these boxes were linked to voter fraud or stolen ballots. Similarly, no incidents were reported in which boxes or ballots were damaged to the extent that election results would have been affected.
READ MORE: Wisconsin Supreme Court bans absentee ballot drop boxes
Several states said they do not allow the use of drop boxes, while some did not allow them before the 2020 election, when the coronavirus pandemic prompted widespread use of postal ballots. In states where they are used, the secretary of state or election commissioners may not be aware of every incident involving drop boxes if it was not reported to their office by a county or other local jurisdiction. .
Drop boxes have been a mainstay in states with widespread mail voting for years and have raised no alarm. They were widely used in 2020 as election officials sought to provide alternative methods of casting ballots with the COVID-19 outbreak, raising concerns about in-person voting and delays in the US Postal Service.
A few months before the 2020 presidential election, Trump and his allies made a series of baseless claims suggesting that drop boxes open the door to voter fraud. Republican state lawmakers, as part of their push to add new voting restrictions, have instead put in place rules about when and where boxes can be accessed.
Arizona Assistant Secretary of State Eli Bones said drop boxes are “safe and secure” and can be considered even more secure than Postal Service mailboxes. He said that bipartisan teams in the state follow the so-called custody protocol to collect the ballot papers from the drop boxes and take them directly to the election facilities.
“Not to say that there is anything wrong with the USPS, and I think they do a great job, but the frenzy around ballot drop boxes I think is just a made-up thing to create suspicion and fear. ,” said Bones.
Arizona has had strong mail-in voting for years that includes the use of drop boxes, and in an Associated Press poll, the state reported no loss, stolen ballots, or fraud associated with them in 2020. Still, Trump-aligned lawmakers in the state pushed for legislation that would ban drop boxes, but were stunned by Democrats and many Republicans who disagreed with the strategy.
Of the states that responded to the survey, 15 indicated that drop boxes were in use before 2020 and 22 have no limit on how many can be used in this fall election.
Republican-led Florida and North Dakota and Democratic-led New York did not respond. Montana and Virginia did, but did not respond to survey questions related to the 2020 election.
Last year, five states added new restrictions to ballot drop boxes, according to research from the Voting Rights Lab. That includes Georgia, where President Joe Biden won a narrow victory, and where drop boxes were allowed under an emergency rule prompted by the pandemic.
Georgia Republicans say their changes have resulted in drop boxes becoming a permanent option for voters, requiring all counties to have at least one. But the law, which includes a formula of one box per 100,000 registered voters, means less will be available in the state’s most populous communities than in 2020.
With incidents reported in news reports, Associated Press found a few cases in 2020 in which drop boxes were damaged.
Washington state officials said there have been instances when drop boxes collided with vehicles, but there were no reports of ballot tampering.
Massachusetts election officials said a box was damaged by arson in October 2020, but most of the ballots inside were still legible enough for voters to be identified, notified and replaced.
A drop box was set on fire in Los Angeles County in 2020, but a local election official said most of the damaged ballots were able to be recovered and voters provided new ballots.
“Ironically, he was hired to answer a problem with the post office and to make sure people had a safe way to return their ballots,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat. Told. “And so, there is no real legitimate concern except for potential external threats or people radicalizing through misinformation who try to tamper with Drop Box to make a point.”
Izaguire reported from Tallahassee, Florida. Associated Press writer Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; Damage Venuizen in Milwaukee; and Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report.