Election officials seek to bypass U.S. Postal Service with ballot boxes – National


As the Trump administration openly tries to undermine mail-in voting this fall, some election officials across the country are hoping to bypass the postal service by setting up numerous ballot boxes in libraries, community centers and other public places.Such boxes have been used successfully for several years in states such as Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which rely largely or entirely on ballots that must be sent out. But their use is being expanded due to the coronavirus outbreak and, more recently, concerns about the ability of the post office to do its job.

State or local authorities in places like Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are pushing for more boxes or drop-off sites that would allow ballots to reach election officials without going through the mail.

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“Donald Trump continues to undermine the legitimacy of mail-order ballots by attacking the US Postal Service,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who is sponsoring legislation to put in place drop boxes beyond the usual limits of local polling sites and polling stations. “New York can respond to this anti-democratic fear campaign by setting up absentee ballot boxes statewide to help ensure the integrity of these ballots. ”

In the potential battlefield state of Wisconsin, the five largest cities won a $ 6.3 million grant from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life to help administer the November election, including the installation of drop boxes. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said his city will use part of its share of $ 2.1 million to buy more than a dozen to install in libraries and other locations.

The Arizona Secretary of State is ordering about 70 more for the predominantly rural areas that have requested them, and a spokeswoman said some counties are also buying more.

Washington state election officials said there are 450 drop boxes statewide and there are discussions to add more.

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Trump denies removing mail sorting machines ahead of election

Last week, the Postal Service, after cutting overtime and delivery delays, began warning states that it cannot guarantee that all ballots will be received in time to be counted. President Donald Trump, who has been sowing unfounded fears of mail-order fraud for months, admitted last week that he blocked funding for the Postal Service, so it would be more difficult to deal with the expected wave of millions of ballots .

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Democratic Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin said concerns about delays at post offices are a big factor in communities looking to set up drop boxes for the November election.

“It’s another way to be completely sure that your ballot is cast as if you were going to the polls,” said the congressman. “I think you’re going to see a lot more of what’s going on.”

Election officials in some states – mostly those led by Republicans – have spoken out against adding drop boxes, saying it would be too costly, raise security concerns or violate state laws.

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In a tweet Monday, Trump sought to cast doubt on the safety of those boxes, saying, “So who is going to ‘collect’ the ballots, and what could be done to them before they are compiled? A rigged election? So bad for our country.

Typical security measures for drop boxes include CCTV, locks, tamper-evident seals, and chain of custody logs that are completed each time the ballots are collected.

Local officials, at a minimum, should have a drop-off box in their main county building or city office, and it is recommended that they have one box for every 15,000 to 20,000 registered voters, according to a memo released by authorities. federal authorities in response to the viral outbreak.

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The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy institute at New York University Law School, estimated that nearly 11,700 ballot boxes will be needed by November, at a cost of $ 82 million to $ 117 million to purchase and install.

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Trump defends claim that postal voting is an ‘invitation to fraud’

Washington State has boxes in churches, fire stations, libraries, colleges, town halls, malls, and courthouses. In Oregon, they’re not only found inside libraries and government buildings, but on the streets outside high-traffic businesses such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and movie theaters.

“The idea is really to meet people where they are in their day to day lives,” Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute and former election official.

In Pennsylvania, a federal lawsuit launched by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee threw the drop boxes into a legal gray area.

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This was after Philadelphia and its suburbs used them – with great success, according to local officials – in the June 2 primaries, when a record 1.4 million ballots arrived in the mail. Democratic state lawmakers are trying to ask a judge to clarify that drop boxes are legal.

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In the meantime, Philadelphia and several suburban counties are planning to create satellite polling stations where people can register to vote, request a ballot, and submit it. Philadelphia wants to create up to 17.

Suburban Delaware County is continuing its drop-box plans without waiting for the outcome of the legal dispute, said Christine Reuther, a member of the county council, Democrat. With the help of grants, the county will purchase 50 boxes and have them installed by October 1.

The purpose of the Trump campaign trial, Reuther said, was to “deter people from doing this.”

“We play a bit,” she said. “I think our lawyers are feeling pretty confident in the trial.”

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Donald Trump suggests delaying US elections due to postal voting

Louisiana is not debating adding drop boxes, but state chief electoral officer GOP Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin proposes to allow parishes to set up curb drop stations street where people can hand their absent ballots to someone in person rather than depositing them in the mail.

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North Carolina has no plans to install boxes and Oklahoma does not use them either, although voters can cast the ballots at one location in each county. But the state plans to print green return envelopes to help postal workers more easily identify and prioritize ballots in the mail.

Ohio will have a single drop box in each of its 88 counties. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, said he would need legislative or attorney general clearance to add more.

State Senator Nickie Antonio, a Democrat from suburban Cleveland, said LaRose’s position “smacked of partisan politics.”


PA state government reporters across the country contributed to this report.

© 2020 The Canadian Press


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