Every day brings more evidence that President Donald Trump wants to dismantle the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to help his campaign. Understandably, as a result, voters are increasingly concerned that their ballots will not be counted this November.
Ballot drop boxes — special containers where voters can easily drop off absentee ballots in sealed and signed envelopes — provide a great alternative for voters to skip the mail process entirely, drop off their mail-in ballots and have them be taken directly to local election offices.
Yet despite election experts, USPS workers and millions of voters calling for drop boxes, Trump has begun an all out assault to prevent them from being deployed through aggressive litigation and political pressure. Recently, Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee sued Pennsylvania in federal court to try to prevent the state from deploying any drop boxes. Democratic organizations have intervened to ensure he fails.
Now Trump has laid out his entire plan, admitting that he won’t agree to the Democrats’ request to fund the USPS because “that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
Republican state election officials are following Trump’s lead.
In Missouri, the Republican secretary of state has ordered drop boxes previously in use in prior elections to be removed from public places. This week, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) announced his ban on county boards of elections offering more than one drop box saying “it’s grown too late to make changes to how Ohio will administer this year’s presidential election.”
This is wrong. It is not too late.
One month before the state’s primary election, Connecticut installed around 200 drop boxes using federal money from the CARES Act. There is no reason why Ohio — or any other state — could not still do the same in advance of November.
Months before ballot drop boxes made an appearance on Trump’s Twitter, we were bringing states to court to expand safe and reliable voting options — including ballot drop boxes. Two of the Four Pillars to safeguard vote by mail specifically focus on accounting for Postal Service delays in delivering ballots: postmark deadline and ballot collection. These laws are being challenged in 11 states and Democrats are intervening to stop the GOP’s attempts to suppress voters in Nevada and Pennsylvania.
In a recent victory, Pennsylvania has ruled that ballots postmarked by Election Day must count, even if they are received afterward.
While changing the received by deadline for absentee ballots is a vital step states must take in light of USPS delays, it alone is not enough.
Community organizations in states that allow ballot collection should consider working with election officials to set up additional drop boxes now. Local libraries, church groups and civic associations should explore with local election officials setting up secure ballot drop boxes. There may even be a role for businesses to play in preserving our right to vote through drop box placement and security.
While we all prefer that states take on this important role, we cannot let democracy suffer at the hands of state inaction or presidential intimidation.
As I wrote last week, ballot drop boxes are one of four easy ways voters can safely and securely vote without relying on the USPS. Calling for ballot drop boxes in your community is something every voter can and should do today to prepare for the November election.