By Ethan Rice
State legislators have introduced more legislation regulating the availability and security of absentee ballot drop boxes this year than in 2022. Legislators have introduced 34 bills related to ballot drop boxes in 2023. Three (9%) of these bills have become law. At this point in 2022, legislators had introduced 26 bills, and two (8%) had been enacted.
These bills can generally fit into two subcategories: drop box availability and drop box security. Bills concerning drop box availability regulate the allowance, availability, or placement of ballot drop boxes. Drop box security bills set or alter standards for the physical security of drop boxes, such as requiring security cameras or in-person staffing.
Democrats have introduced more drop box availability bills overall, sponsoring 38 bills since the start of 2022 compared to Republicans’ 31. Republicans have introduced more drop box security bills, sponsoring 19 compared to Democrats’ 13. Republicans sponsored all seven bills introduced during this time to prohibit drop boxes entirely.
Drop box availability
State legislatures have considered five more bills dealing with drop-box availability this year (29 bills) than at this point in 2022 (23 bills). Two states have enacted drop box availability bills so far in 2023, the same number as this point in 2022. Nine drop box availability bills were enacted in 2022.
Of the two drop box availability bills enacted this year, Arkansas’ Republican-sponsored bill, SB258, prohibits election officials from establishing or using a drop box to collect absentee ballots. New Mexico’s Democratic-sponsored bill, SB180, prohibits anyone other than the secretary of state or the county clerk from providing or operating a drop box. In 2022, Utah (HB0313) and Washington (HB1716) had each enacted a bill on the topic. Republicans sponsored the Utah bill, which required election officials to designate at least one ballot drop box in each municipality and reservation located in the jurisdiction to which the election relates. Democrats sponsored the Washington bill, which required county auditors to open a voting center with a ballot drop box for any special elections the county may hold.
Drop box security
Eighteen of the bills introduced this year deal with drop box security compared with eight bills at this time last year and 21 introduced throughout 2022. Two bills introduced this year have been enacted, two bills had also been enacted at this point in 2022, and three bills on the topic were enacted throughout all of 2022.
Republicans and Democrats each enacted one drop box security bill in both 2022 and 2023. Utah has enacted one Republican-sponsored bill so far this year. HB0347 makes it a third-degree felony to tamper, destroy, or remove a drop box or its contents. New Mexico enacted the Democrat-sponsored SB180, which in addition to regulating drop box availability, also makes the unlawful operation of absentee ballot drop boxes a fourth-degree felony.
The two drop-box security bills enacted by this point in 2022 were Republican-sponsored Utah HB0313, which required drop boxes to be monitored by recorded video surveillance at all times, and Washington HB1716, which prohibited interfering with voters or disrupting the administration of a voting center, including ballot drop boxes. Ohio later enacted Republican-sponsored HB458, requiring drop boxes to be monitored by recorded video surveillance.
Produced in association with Ballotpedia
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