With about 60 days left until the Nov. 3 election, voters are still a bit skittish about voting by absentee ballot, fearful that their ballots might not arrive at the Board of Elections in time to be counted or that there will be some kind of technical issue that results in their ballot being declared invalid.
One way to resolve those fears and ensure that more ballots submitted on time are actually validated is by setting up secure drop boxes around the state where voters can drop off their ballots.
This would allow voters to avoid the anticipated crush of ballots being delivered through the Postal Service, eliminate any issues with ballots not receiving an official postmark (as happened during recent primaries) and remove any question whether a ballot was delivered in time to be counted.
State lawmakers have proposed a bill (A10942/S8902) that would authorize local boards of elections to set up drop boxes at convenient locations and amend state Election Law to require boards to count a ballot as being on time if it’s been deposited in the drop box prior to the close of voting on Election Day.
The location of the boxes would be posted on government websites so voters know where to go.
More than 30 other states - including California, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and Washington - have been using the boxes for years, while a number of other states just began employing drop boxes since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
During recent school elections in New York, which had a very short turnaround time for ballots, many districts set up drop boxes throughout their communities or at school buildings.
The concept raises some issues.
One is whether there’s enough time to procure enough boxes prior to the election. Some have suggested the turnaround time for creating drop boxes is 60-90 days. Could enough boxes be purchased and installed in time for them to be used this year?
Another is the public’s concern about security. Done right, this is not a legitimate concern. Lockable boxes are traditionally placed in secure locations like county buildings, courthouses and police stations. They generally are anchored to the ground or have only internal access, and are typically placed in areas with good lighting and security cameras. And only authorized personnel would be allowed to collect ballots.
Even without boxes, absentee voters still have options for avoiding the post office, as counties will accept ballots at any polling site, starting with early voting dates, and at the board of elections during normal business hours.
Any way to make it easier for people to vote, especially during the covid crisis, should be considered. Drop boxes are a proven, secure alternative to mailing in ballots or voting in person.