Battle over ballot drop boxes
It was a battle of Kansas secretaries of the state Monday over election rules.
Kansas' current and former Secretary of State took opposite sides on a proposal that would limit the uses of the ballot drop boxes that showed up during the 2020 election.
The bill, SB 208, would allow only one ballot drop-off box per county. It would have to be kept inside the county election office and constantly monitored by two people of opposing parties.
Kris Kobach, former Kansas Secretary of State and current Attorney General told lawmakers on the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee Monday that that would help ensure against things like ballot harvesting.
Ballot harvesting, as defined by Kansas law, is the collection of 10 or more advance ballots and dropping them off for someone else.
“If you have unmonitored drop boxes, that crime is easy to commit without any detection whatsoever. The type of crime ballot harvesting occurs with significant regularity,” Kobach told lawmakers. “If you're using an unmonitored drop box, no one can tell whether you dropped off 10, 22, or 100 ballots. There's just…you can drop off as many as you want if it's unmonitored. Now, in contrast, if you use a county election office to hand in your ballots ahead of time…there's somebody there receiving them. And so the county clerk might notice, ‘Hey, this guy came in yesterday and dropped off 10 ballots and here he is, again.’ There's at least some monitoring.”
Many Kansans first became aware of ballot drop boxes in 2020, when counties began installing many of them during the pandemic. However, the Secretary of State's office says the State of Kansas authorized the usage of ballot drop boxes back in 1978 and they've been in use since then.
Current Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who oversaw the 2020 Election during the pandemic, disagreed with Kobach on just how safe the drop boxes are.
“I don't know of any drop boxes that are unmonitored,” Schwab told lawmakers Monday. “Just because you can't see the camera does not mean they're unmonitored. Someone tried to test this in one of our counties, to which the county sheriff's office quickly descended and stopped them.”
Schwab says this proposal would force Kansans, especially those in rural western counties, to go back to using an unreliable U.S. Postal system to return their advanced ballots.
“And why in God's green earth would you want the federal post office or the federal government in charge of your ballot?” Schwab asked lawmakers. “I got a Christmas card last week.”
Kobach says this is the only way to enforce the state's current ballot harvesting ban, that there is no current state law governing the use of ballot drop boxes, just regulations from the Secretary of State's office.