President Donald Trump has waged war on mail-in voting over the past few months by spreading entirely unfounded claims to instill the idea that voting by mail is rife with fraud. Now he has a new target.
While Trump offers confusing and conflicting messages over his position on providing additional funds to the US Postal Service ahead of what is likely to be a record increase in mail-in ballots for the election, the President has aimed his sights on ballot drop boxes, which are at the center of a Trump campaign lawsuit in Pennsylvania.
“Some states use ‘drop boxes’ for the collection of Universal Mail-In Ballots,” Trump tweeted Monday. “So who is going to ‘collect’ the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election?”
So, what are drop boxes and who can collect ballots from them?
Facts First: Trump is wrong to suggest there are widespread security issues with any of the thousands of ballot drop boxes all over the country. These boxes are specifically set up and designed to securely receive ballots. Experts say only election administrators handle and process ballots once they are submitted. Under federal law anyone who commits voter fraud could be fined up to $10,000 and spend up to five years in prison for each act of fraud.
The US Postal Service has warned nearly all 50 states that voters risk not getting their ballots back to election offices in time to be counted because of lags in mail delivery, according to letters reviewed by CNN. Experts have recommended states make crucial investments in building these secure drop boxes to meet the coming demand for the November election.
Drop boxes are located in secure places like county courthouses, election offices and sometimes built outside for 24/7 access. According to the US Election Assistance Commission, these outside drop boxes “typically [cost] about $6,000 each” and are made to be durable and secure. These boxes are made with strong material like steel and cemented to the ground.
The EAC recommends that additional security, like security cameras and so on, should be installed with these drop boxes.
A survey from Harvard University found that in 2016 the majority of voters in Colorado (73%), Washington (65%), and Oregon (59%) submitted their ballots through a physical location like an election office or drop box.
Only election administrators have access to the ballots when they are cast in drop boxes, according to experts. These are the same people who handle ballots cast in polling places and by mail.
“That is part of the security of drop boxes,” Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, told CNN, “ensuring proper, valid chain of custody.”
Weiser noted that drop boxes don’t “introduce some kind of uniquely difficult security problems” adding that election administrators follow the same security practices they employ in collecting all other ballots.
You can read about the safety measures involved in ballot processing, such as unique bar codes, signature matching, etc., here.
CNN’s Tara Subramaniam contributed to this article.