ATLANTA – Atlanta-area voters looking to return their ballots using a drop box in next year’s gubernatorial election will have to do some searching.
Just eight boxes will be spread across Fulton County’s nearly 529 square miles — or about one for every 100,000 registered voters. That’s down from the 38 drop boxes that were available to voters last fall. It’s the result of a broad new law pushed by Georgia Republicans in response to former President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.
Georgia is one of several states controlled politically by Republicans that are seeking additional restrictions on voting, citing security concerns. A favorite target is ballot drop boxes, which have been used for years in states with expansive mail voting and which millions of voters used last year as a way to avoid polling places during the pandemic.
Democrats say the boxes are more secure than regular mailboxes, and their use was largely trouble-free last fall. Even Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who signed the restrictive bill into law, posted a video on his Twitter account that showed him using a drop box to cast his ballot last year, flashing a thumbs up sign afterward.
“They loved ballot drop boxes until Trump and the Republicans started losing,” said state Rep. Erica Thomas, a Democrat from metro Atlanta.
For election officials and voters across the country, drop boxes seemed like an ideal solution to two major problems in 2020: a coronavirus pandemic that raised fears about crowded polling places and reports of mail delays that threatened on-time delivery of ballots.
The boxes were targeted a few times by vandals, but few other problems were reported across the country. Even so, Republicans say they want to ensure the boxes will be a secure way to cast a ballot.
“It’s a continued narrative where you try to pit security against accessibility, and you have to choose one or the other,” said Hillary Hall, a former county elections clerk in Colorado who now works with election officials across the country through the National Vote at Home Institute. “It’s a false choice.”