Georgia Counties Quickly Deploy Ballot Drop Boxes, But How Long Will They Be Used?

A newly-installed ballot drop box stands outside the Cobb Government Services Center

Emil Moffatt/WABE

It was just three weeks ago when the State Election Board approved an emergency measure allowing counties to install secure drop boxes to accept absentee ballots for the June 9 primaries.

That led to a scramble to buy them, said Janine Eveler, elections director in Cobb County.

“We purchased them; we did have to do a rush order for a model that was in stock because we don’t really have a lot of time with this,” Eveler said.

Despite the rush, four of the drop boxes have been installed in Cobb County. DeKalb County has put in two drop boxes, and at last report, Fulton was looking to purchase at least a dozen.

Holding an election during the coronavirus pandemic has led Georgia to experiment with outdoor ballot drop boxes. The drop boxes allow for ballots to be turned in without human contact, without postage and also when county elections offices aren’t open.

As for keeping them secure, they’re under constant video surveillance and have to be emptied daily.

As it stands now, the June primary is the only election when these drop boxes can be used. But Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says that could change.

“This is our test run, we’ll see how it works, but we know that many of the counties have already planned what they’re going to do,” said Raffensperger at a news conference on April 30. “And so, I could see this having a place in the future. ”

That’s because, as Raffensperger notes, Georgians have responded to the push for mail-in voting in a big way, with more than a million applications approved so far, including 100,000 in Cobb County.

There will be in-person voting in Georgia starting May 18. But Eveler still urges as many people as possible to vote absentee because in-person voting during a pandemic may take a while.

“There may be extended wait times and lines because we’re going to have to sanitize equipment in between voters,” she said. “We’re going to have to limit the number of people in the room.”

WABE’s coverage of the 2020 elections, and how we vote, is made possible through a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network.