Election officials in the District of Columbia are boosting the number of ballot drop boxes for this autumn’s general election. And they’re not alone.
Officials in states across the country – including Arizona, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — are also making similar moves to give voters a safe socially distanced option to cast their ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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But the push for more ballot boxes comes as President Trump continues his relentless assault on voting by mail, which he’s repeatedly claimed will lead to massive voter fraud. And it comes as the president and Democrats in Congress battle over increased funding for the U.S. Postal Service ahead of what’s sure to be a massive surge in voting by mail.
A boost in the number of ballot boxes would let a larger percentage of voters bypass mailing in their ballots. After cutting overtime and late deliveries to deal with its budget woes, the Postal Service last week warned states that it couldn’t guarantee that all mail ballots would be received in time to be counted in the November election.
Following intense pushback across the country, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy – a strong Trump supporter who was appointed by the president – announced this week that he was suspending a number of the cost-cutting changes that had been implemented but that critics argued would hamper the ability of the Postal Service to handle mailed ballots.
House Democrats cast doubt about DeJoy’s announcement and say they’ll press forward with a vote Saturday to outlaw disruptions to mail service. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi downplayed DeJoy’s announcement as a “temporary pause” in Trump’s “election sabotage campaign.” She said the House Democrats bill would give $25 billion in funding the USPS board had wanted and would prohibit DeJoy from cutting back on mail service during the coronavirus pandemic.
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While the fight in the nation’s capital continues, the push for more ballot boxes is coming under attack from the president.
“Some states use ‘drop boxes’ for the collection of Universal Mail-In Ballots. So who is going to ‘collect’ the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election? So bad for our Country. Only Absentee Ballots acceptable!” Trump tweeted on Monday.
But election experts disagree with the president’s claims. They explain that these ballot boxes are designed with security in mind. They are mostly located in secure places, such as county courthouses or election offices and some come equipped with security cameras. Drop boxes located outside such facilities – which allow for 24/7 access by voters to drop off their ballots – are made of sturdy materials like steel and are usually firmly cemented to the ground. They also note that only election officials handle and process the ballots once they’re dropped into the boxes.
Those who try to tamper with drop boxes would likely face voter fraud charges – leading to fines up to $10,000 and five years behind bars for conviction of an act of fraud.
Regardless, the president’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) filed a federal lawsuit against Pennsylvania over drop boxes after Philadelphia and suburban communities used them in their June primary, when a massive 1.4 million ballots were sent by mail. Democratic state lawmakers have countersued.
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The president on Tuesday suggested that a massive shift to mail-in voting in the presidential election could cause so many problems that officials might have to re-do the vote.
“It will end up being a rigged election or they will never come out with an outcome,” Trump told reporters. “They’ll have to do it again, and nobody wants that.”
The re-holding of a national election has never happened in American history. And the president doesn’t have the power to reschedule an election.
While the president continues to rail against universal mailed in ballots, only nine states are planning to vote nearly entirely by mail this year.
As the president contemplated a re-doing of the election, his campaign and the RNC on Tuesday filed suit against New Jersey after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order that would send a ballot to every registered voter, but would also allow for in-person voting where desired.
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Murphy fired back on Wednesday, tweeting “Let me be clear: Vote-by-mail in the November election will keep people safe. Period. The Trump campaign is embarking on a brazen attempt to sow fear and confusion, and to delegitimize our elections and cast doubt on our democratic process.”
Fox News’ Lissa Kaplan contributed to this report