Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Increased security sought for ballot drop boxes

A bill to increase the security of ballot drop boxes was heard Feb. 2 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sen. Robert Clements
Sen. Robert Clements

LB1263, introduced by Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood, would establish statewide standards for counties that employ ballot drop boxes. The bill would require drop boxes to be:
• securely fastened to the ground or on a concrete slab connected to the ground;
• secured with a lock that can be opened only by the county election commissioner, county clerk or an election official designated by the commissioner or clerk;
• compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act;
• emptied each business day; and
• opened for accepting ballots no later than the sixth Friday before a statewide election or the fourth Friday before a special election.

The measure also would require a county election commissioner or county clerk to inform the Nebraska Secretary of State of each drop box location in the county no later than 42 days prior to a statewide election.

Clements said the bill would standardize the security of ballot drop boxes across Nebraska.

Wayne Bena, deputy secretary of state for elections, testified in support of LB1263. All county election commissioners were provided with drop boxes for the 2020 primary election, he said, but the department currently lacks authority to regulate their use. The bill would ensure that all drop boxes comply with state standards, Bena said.

“Not to say, necessarily, that there’s something wrong right now, but if you want to replace a drop box, you’re not just going to buy a cheap one that’s not going to be secure,” he said.

Also in support was Westin Miller of Civic Nebraska. He said secure drop boxes are an essential part of a fair election.

“This bill is a great example of how to actually improve election security by creating a defined, meaningful infrastructure, not by passing evidence-free restrictions that make life more difficult for voters,” Miller said.

Edison McDonald, executive director of the Ark of Nebraska, also testified in support of the bill. He said the proposal would increase election security while ensuring that all drop boxes are accessible to voters with disabilities.

Richard Jost testified in opposition to the bill. He said nothing in LB1263 would expose wrongdoing in previous elections.

“I don’t see how screwing a ballot box into the ground is going to help [instill] faith in upcoming elections,” Jost said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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