Wisconsin’s Supreme Court on Friday outlawed the use of most ballot drop boxes, a move similar to one espoused by one of the three Republican candidates for the Wyoming secretary of state’s office.
But a ban of ballot boxes in Wyoming would require a revision of state law by the Legislature, as Wyoming’s law is much vaguer on the topic than Wisconsin’s rules.
In Wisconsin, the Supreme Court’s ban on ballot boxes is based on a state law requiring absentee ballots to “be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing the ballot or ballots.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court determined the statute forbids the use of boxes.
The closest Wyoming law comes to such a requirement is a statement that ballots must be “mailed or delivered to the clerk.”
Secretary of State Ed Buchanan said he considers drop box ballot boxes to be just another mechanism of delivery.
But state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, one of three candidates for the secretary of state’s office, has said that if elected, he will make it illegal to use drop box ballot boxes in Wyoming.
During the 2020 election, nine of these boxes were used in Wyoming, all stationed outside county courthouses under video surveillance.
Despite Gray’s vow to eliminate the boxes, Buchanan told Cowboy State Daily the secretary of state is just one member of the executive branch who works with the Legislature and the governor’s office to propose new laws.
Buchanan has said he does not care for the boxes, but he has not put any pressure on legislators or the governor to make them illegal.
Buchanan allowed county clerks to use the ballot boxes during the 2020 election out of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.
They are not illegal under Wyoming law.
Monique Meese, a communications director for the secretary of state’s office, said it appears that one or two of the boxes were also used during the 2018 election.
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court also ruled that voters cannot give their completed absentee ballots to others to turn in to county clerks on their behalf, a practice some call “ballot harvesting.”
The topics of ballot drop boxes and ballot harvesting are highlighted in the Dinesh D’Souza film “2000 Mules,” a movie alleging outdoor ballot boxes were illegally stuffed by “mules” making multiple drops with stacks of completed ballots.
The film contains no evidence of any wrongdoing in Wyoming.
Gray has been hosting free showings of “2000 Mules” during his campaign. The movie also makes claims of rampant ballot harvesting during the 2020 election.
Georgia was the site for some of the most contentious debate over former President Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. It is also the state where a significant portion of the movie was filmed.
In Georgia, a person can deliver ballots for a family or household member or a disabled voter.
The movie presents location-tracking data purporting to show thousands of people making suspiciously large numbers of stops near mail-in vote drop boxes during the 2020 election. Footage from multiple boxes is shown, but no single person is shown during the movie visiting multiple ballot boxes or the same ballot boxes multiple times.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia allow the use of ballot drop boxes, according to the U.S. Vote Foundation and 31 states have laws allowing voters to have someone else return their ballot for them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Wyoming has no laws pertaining to the topic of ballot harvesting, as the state does not specify whether someone may return ballots on behalf of voters.
In 2021, Gray cosponsored a bill aimed at restricting “ballot harvesting” by allowing only family members to deliver the ballots of others. The bill was not considered in the House.
This past spring, Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester initiated his own ballot harvesting bill, which died in the Senate.
Certain voting rights proponents have argued that disabled voters depend on others to deliver their ballots.
Gray told Cowboy State Daily if he is elected, he will “absolutely” push for laws to restrict ballot harvesting in Wyoming.
One of Gray’s opponents, Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyene, voted for Gray’s Voter ID law in 2021, Biteman’s ballot harvesting bill in 2022 and a bill in 2022 that would have banned “crossover” voting.
Gray has attacked Nethercott for allegedly being soft on election integrity because of her voting record and because she supports the continued use of ballot boxes as long as they are supervised and their security can be guaranteed.
Nethercott said she believes there are adequate measures in place to ensure the security of the boxes in Wyoming at this time, after having conversations with various county clerks on the matter.
“My position is that the need to make voting available to the public is paramount so the use of ballot boxes may be considered but must be balanced with security to ensure secure protection,” she said.
Tim Lasseter, a county clerk candidate in Park County, said during a June 8 candidate forum in Cody that he does not support the the use of ballot boxes.
“They shouldn’t be left in the dark outside of a county courthouse,” he said. “To me, our elections are much more important than that.
“People not only need to vote in person, but they need to put their ballots into whatever we’re counting them (in),” he continued. “If there’s no one monitoring those boxes, it has the potential to lead to fraud and other things that I don’t want to see in this county.”