County to Continue Use of Ballot Drop Box Despite Sec. of State Request

County to Continue Use of Ballot Drop Box Despite Sec. of State Request

A ballot drop box in Sweetwater County will remain available during the 2024 elections, despite a request from Secretary of State Chuck Gray for counties to not utilize them.

SWEETWATER COUNTY – A letter Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray sent to the state’s 23 county clerks urges them not to provide ballot drop boxes during the upcoming elections, a request that is being denied in Sweetwater County.

According to a news release from Gray’s office, Gray rescinded directives issued by previous Secretary of State Ed Buchanan in 2020 allowing use of ballot drop boxes.

Gray rescinding those directives is based on Gov. Mark Gordon ending the state of emergency related to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as language in the state’s election code. 

Advertisement - Story continues below...

“Given the differing interpretations of my predecessors’ support for drop boxes, I want to be unequivocally clear: I do not believe drop boxes represent a safe, secure, or statutory basis for absentee voting. For this reason, I believe they should not be used in the 2024 Election and beyond,” Gray said in a statement sent to SweetwaterNOW. “The plain language of W.S. 22-9-113, which provides that completed absentee ballots be ‘mailed or delivered to the clerk,’ does not allow for unattended ballot drop boxes as a means of delivering absentee ballots to the clerk. The strained interpretation only came about during the government’s response to COVID-19, and the directives authorizing them are no longer in effect. As Wyoming Secretary of State, I remain committed to preserving the integrity and confidence in Wyoming’s elections. I remain convinced that the use of unstaffed and unattended ballot drop boxes is not best for our state and lacks statutory authorization, and I am strongly opposed to their use.”

Sweetwater County Clerk Cindy Lane said she intends to use the ballot box during the upcoming elections.

“For me, it’s about Sweetwater County’s needs, and every part of the state is different,” Lane said.

The county utilized ballot drop boxes during the 2020 and 2022 elections. The box, located at the front of the Sweetwater County Courthouse entrance off Flaming Gorge Way in Green River, was locked and placed under 24-hour video surveillance. When elections workers would retrieve ballots in the box, they would go in pairs and each sign off on the number of ballots found inside the box.

“We have a policy in place,” she said.

Lane said the county only collected less than 300 ballots with its drop box and said problems associated with people trying to vote twice in an election, stuffing the ballot box or other forms of tampering have not happened. 

Lane said the drop box gives people who request an absentee ballot another means of submitting it and can be a convenience for some people. Those who chose to vote with an absentee ballot can use the box, as well as mail it to the county clerk’s office or hand it in during the office’s operating hours. People can also choose to vote early prior to the elections.

The County Clerks’ Association of Wyoming has responded to Gray’s letter, reaffirming the safety ballot drop boxes and disagreeing with his allegations and concerns about usage of those boxes.

“In response to Secretary Chuck Gray’s letter dated June 5, 2024, the County Clerks’ Association of Wyoming holds its longstanding interpretation of W.S. § 22-9-113 that the phrase “delivered to the clerk” allows for the use of a ballot drop box at the discretion of an individual County Clerk. Without judicial interpretation or legislative clarity, we continue to hold our interpretation as the same,” the organization claims. 

The association notes not all counties utilize ballot drop boxes and it isn’t uncommon for election code to allow an administrative function and the decision to implement services like election drop boxes to the elected county clerks.

Election integrity was an issue Gray campaigned on when running for Secretary of State in 2022. He has hosted film screenings of “2,000 Mules,” a film claiming to show evidence of conspiracy theory related to coordinated election fraud during the 2020 election. Information the film presented has since been widely been discredited and determined as false, with the conservative media company behind both the film and accompanying book recently issuing an apology and a promise to remove the film and book from its platforms.