Wyoming Secretary of State Seeks to Eliminate Ballot Drop Boxes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray (R) sent a letter to county clerks on Wednesday urging them to eliminate the use of mail-in ballot drop boxes ahead of the November election.

“I do not believe drop boxes represent a safe, secure, or statutory basis for absentee voting. For this reason, they should not be used in the 2024 Election and beyond,” Gray wrote.

Also on Wednesday, Gray issued a directive rescinding 2020 orders from previous Secretary of State Ed Buchanan (R) stating drop boxes could be used because of the state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gray said that since the state of emergency is over, the drop boxes aren’t needed anymore.

He also said he does not believe Wyoming residents even want ballot drop boxes.

“I have received countless phone calls, emails and walk-ins regarding Wyomingites’ concerns with ballot drop boxes,” Gray said.

Gray is not the first secretary of state in Wyoming to spread election misinformation. In the lead-up to the 2022 midterm, Wyoming Interim Secretary of State Karl Allred (R) requested the removal of all drop boxes. However, the seven Wyoming counties that planned to use drop boxes that November disregarded his recommendation.

Gray joined Allred in pushing this message before the midterms. In his campaign for secretary of state in 2022, Gray called himself an “election integrity champion” who would expose voter fraud. He noted that while serving in the Wyoming House of Representatives, he helped pass a voter ID law to “stop cheaters from trying to steal elections.” He also featured his endorsement from former President Donald Trump prominently on his website.

The County Clerks’ Association of Wyoming issued a response to Gray’s letter this week, saying that his message about drop boxes is wrong. “We hold that the use of ballot drop boxes as a method of ballot delivery is safe, secure and statutorily authorized,” the association wrote.

The association also said the decision of whether or not to use ballot drop boxes should be up to each county clerk because it’s an administrative function left to the discretion of locally elected officials. 

Marissa Carpio, the policy director of the Equality State Policy Center — a nonpartisan coalition-based organization fighting for fair elections and transparent government — also disputed Gray’s comments about drop boxes being untrustworthy.

“Ballot boxes are made to be tamper-proof. They have video surveillance on them. They’re collected by a nonpartisan team,” Carpio said. “We have very safe elections and very low levels of fraud in Wyoming.”

She said that only about seven or eight of Wyoming’s 23 counties have ballot drop boxes, which Gray said his letter “is telling in of itself.” But that doesn’t mean they don’t still have a vital purpose, Carpio said.

“They’re really important in Wyoming because we are such a rural state, and people often have to travel very far [to vote], especially if they’re early voting,” Carpio said.

She said people who can’t get away from their jobs during the work day or who need accommodations to vote benefit from access to ballot drop boxes.

Carpio said while Gray can’t force counties to eliminate their drop boxes, his rhetoric is still harmful.

“It could cause confusion. It just stirs up distrust in the electoral process when we have no reason to distrust our electoral process,” Carpio said in an interview with Democracy Docket. “Our county clerks do a really, really good job in our state, so it’s just disappointing.”

She said spreading misinformation and distrust in elections to voters is especially damaging in a state where voter turnout is already really low, especially ahead of the state’s August 20 primary elections and the general election in November.

“I hope that I don’t see those things [reflected] in the voter turnout or the voter registration for this election,” Carpio said.

Read Gray’s letter to county clerks here.

Read Gray’s directive here.