The Republican Party of Virginia, unnerved by the high number of drop boxes around the commonwealth that are not monitored by public officials, has deployed volunteers to keep an eye on the ballot receptacles.
Drop-box voting, launched by the state’s Democratic-run government in 2020 as part of COVID-19 measures, is a ballot security issue for the state GOP as Virginians decide the close governor’s race between Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
“You have them in secure locations, namely in the registrar’s office, and they’re only accessible to the public, obviously, during business hours of the registrar’s office,” Virginia Republican Party Chairman Rich Anderson told The Washington Times. “But once they’re outside, those are the ones we’re concerned about — that somebody could go drive up to one under current law and dump a bushel basket of ballots in there.”
He added, “I kid you not. It’s hard to believe, but it is legal under Virginia law because it just simply doesn’t address [security] one way or the other.”
The Virginia Democratic Party and the Virginia Department of Elections did not respond to requests for comment.
Expanded early voting in the state this year is expected to add to the volume of ballots deposited at drop boxes. This is the first election cycle in the commonwealth since Virginia adopted new voting laws, including 45 days of no-excuse early voting, early voting on Sundays and prepaid postage for absentee ballots.
For the most part, voters in Virginia are only allowed to deposit their own ballot at the drop boxes.
Virginia law presently allows a designated representative to cast an emergency ballot for an incapacitated or hospitalized voter. It is required for the representative to complete a statement, and a false statement is a felony violation.
“They can go into nursing homes and assist individuals who are registered to vote to fill out a ballot and, without regard to their capacity to mentally process the information, and make an independent decision and render an uninfluenced vote,” Mr. Anderson said. “That is very vulnerable to manipulation, but it’s hard to say to what extent that happens.”
He concedes that it would be difficult to tell if an individual is engaged in illegal activity just by dropping loads of ballots at a drop box.
However, having volunteers and paid staffers and video cameras monitoring drop boxes located at unattended sites is a precaution that Mr. Anderson says is necessary.
“The feeling is that by being present, several things happen. First of all, it may deter the large-scale dropping off of ballots, which, to me, is an indication that something nefarious is taking place. And, [secondly,] to ensure that the boxes themselves are not tampered with.”
Since the 2020 election, Virginia voters can cast their ballots inside designated drop boxes set up in their districts around the commonwealth.
Lawmakers in Richmond last year, through the Democratic majority, voted for the change to receive and collect ballots from voters who may be concerned about exposure to the coronavirus. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation in September 2020, allowing municipalities to set up drop boxes inside and outside their registrar’s offices, at satellite voting sites and on Election Day at polling locations.