VOPP: Table 9: Ballot Drop Box Definitions, Design Features, Location and Number

4/23/2021

Our organization does not run elections and cannot provide legal advice. If you are a voter looking for assistance, please contact your local election official. You can find your local election official's website and contact information by using this database from the US Vote Foundation.

This table is part of NCSL’s Voting Outside the Polling Place report.

A ballot drop box provides a location where voters can drop off absentee/mail ballots in sealed and signed envelopes. The drop boxes may be supervised or unsupervised with security features such as cameras. Many states that permit or require ballot drop boxes set minimum requirements for where they must be located, how many a county must have, hours they must be available and security standards.

The table below summarizes the drop box definition, design features, number and location as required by states that regulate ballot drop boxes. California’s laws are by far the most extensive, and each state may not have statutory or regulatory guidance in each of the categories.

State Drop Box Definition Drop Box Design Features Number and Location

Arizona

ARS §§ 16-548, 16-550, 16-579 and 16-584
N/A Does not need to be separate from an Election Day ballot box. Must be “secure.”

Election officials determine the location; no information on number.

California

West's Ann. Cal. Elec. Code §§ 3025, 20132, 20133, 20134, 20135, 20136 and 20137

 

*California provides extensive directions for a ballot drop box’s design and location; view the cited statutes for more details.
“A secure receptacle established by a county or city and county elections official whereby a voted vote by mail ballot may be returned to the elections official from whom it was obtained.”

May be staffed or unstaffed. Must be labeled “Official Ballot Drop Box” and include language about tampering, voter hotlines, postage and other information. Must be constructed to withstand vandalism, with a clearly identified ballot insertion slot and a unique identifying number. At least one drop box at a location must meet accessibility requirements.

 

If feasible, drop boxes should be monitored by a video surveillance system

County election officials determine the location and must consider population, geographic areas, voter convenience, proximity to public transportation, community-based locations, security, and available funding. County election officials determine the number.

 

County election officials must inform the secretary of state of the drop box locations at least 30 days prior to the election.

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 1-7.5-107, 8 CCR 1505-1:7

N/A

Must be adequately lit and monitored by either an election official or video security surveillance system. Ballots must be collected in a locked container, and the drop boxes must contain signage about ballot collection and electioneering.

County election officials must locate the drop boxes “in a manner that provides the greatest convenience to electors.” At least one drop box for every 30,000 registered voters in the county.

Georgia

21-2-382

N/A The opening slot of a drop box shall not allow ballots to be tampered with or removed and shall be designed to minimize the ability for liquid or other substances that  may damage ballots to be poured into the drop box. A drop box shall be labeled "OFFICIAL ABSENTEE BALLOT DROP BOX" and shall clearly display the signage developed by the Secretary of State pertaining to Georgia law with regard to who is allowed to return absentee ballots and destroying, defacing, or delaying delivery of ballots. A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk shall establish at least one drop box as a means for absentee by mail electors to deliver their ballots to the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk. A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk may establish additional drop boxes, subject to the limitations of this Code section, but may only establish additional drop boxes totaling the lesser of either one drop box for every 100,000 active registered voters in the county or the number of advance voting locations in the county. Any additional drop boxes shall be evenly geographically distributed by population in the county. Drop boxes established pursuant to this Code section shall be established at the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk or inside locations at which advance voting is conducted in the applicable primary, election, or runoff and may be open during the hours of advance voting at that location. Such drop boxes shall be closed when advance voting is not being conducted at that location. All drop boxes shall be closed when the advance voting period ends. The drop box location shall have adequate lighting and be under constant surveillance by an election official or his or her designee, law enforcement official, or licensed security guard. During an emergency declared by the Governor drop boxes may be located outside the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk or outside of locations at which advance voting is taking place, subject to the other limitations of this Code section.

Hawaii

H.R.S. § 11-1, § 11-B, § 11-I
“’Place of deposit’ means a site within the county of the voter's registration address designated pursuant to section 11-I for the purpose of receiving return identification envelopes in an election conducted by mail.” Must be “securely maintained.” County election officials determine number and location.

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/19-6

N/A All collection sites shall be secured by locks that may be opened only by election authority personnel. The State Board of Elections shall establish additional security guidelines. Election authorities may maintain one or more collection sites.

Iowa

Section 53.17, subsection 1

N/A The commissioner shall implement all reasonable and necessary measures to ensure that the ballot drop box is accessible and secure. Security measures may include placing the ballot drop box in a place regularly viewed by the commissioner or the commissioner’s staff. A video surveillance system shall be used to monitor all activity at the ballot drop box at all times while the ballot drop box is in place. The system shall create a recording, which shall be reviewed by the state commissioner, county attorney, and law enforcement in the event that misconduct occurs. While available, a ballot drop box shall be securely fastened to a stationary surface or an immovable object. The ballot drop box shall be secured by a lock and shall include a tamper-evident seal. Only the commissioner or an employee of the commissioner shall have access to the means to unfasten the lock. A commissioner is not required to establish a ballot drop box.  A commissioner shall not establish more than one ballot drop box, which shall be located at the office of the commissioner, or on property owned and maintained by the county that directly surrounds the building where the office is located. For the purposes of this subparagraph, “office of the commissioner” means a location where a voter may receive services pursuant to section 48A.17, 50.20, 53.10, or 53.18.

Montana

13-19-307

N/A Must be staffed by at least two election officials.

Ballots may be returned at the election administrator’s office and one or more other designated locations.

Nevada

*Note: These provisions only apply for "affected" elections under emergency election procedures as established by AB 4 (2020).

N/A Must be constructed of metal or any other rigid material of sufficient strength and resistance to protect the security of the mail ballots; and capable of securely receiving and holding the mail ballots and being locked. Each county or city clerk must establish at least one location in the county or city, as applicable, for a ballot drop box where mail ballots can be delivered by hand and collected during the period for early voting and on election day. Must be placed in an accessible and convenient location at the office of the county or city clerk, as applicable, or a polling place in the county or city, as applicable; and made available for use during the hours when the office of the county or city clerk, as applicable, or the polling place is open for business or voting, as applicable.

New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 19:63-16.1

A ballot drop box shall mean a secured drop box that is not required to be within view of a live person for monitoring. All ballot drop boxes shall be available for use by a voter 24 hours a day and shall be placed at locations equipped with security cameras that allow for surveillance of the ballot drop box.  All ballot drop box locations shall be on sites that meet the accessibility requirements applicable to polling places under R.S.19:8-2 and shall be subject to the same compliance oversight applicable to polling places under section 3 of P.L.1991, c. 429 (C.19:8-3.3). A ballot drop box site shall be considered accessible if it is in compliance with the federal “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990” (42 U.S.C. s.12101 et seq.).

At least one ballot drop box shall be located :at any county government building in which the main office of the county clerk is located; in each municipality with a population larger than 5,000 residents; at the main campus of each State college or university; and the main campus of each independent four-year college or university with enrollments larger than 5,000 students. Whenever two or more ballot drop box locations are separated by a distance of less than 2,000 feet, the board of elections in each county shall determine secondary locations for those ballot drop boxes in compliance with the requirements of this section. The secondary ballot drop box locations shall be located within the municipality where those ballot drop boxes were originally located and shall be approved by a majority vote of the members of the board of elections. However, in the event of a tie in the votes cast by the members of the board of elections, the county clerk shall cast the deciding vote. Whenever possible, at least one ballot drop box shall be located in a municipality with an average per capita income or a median family income at or below 250% of the federal poverty guideline according to the most recent federal American Community Survey.

(c) The board of elections in each county shall establish no fewer than 10 ballot drop boxes. To the best of their ability, the board of elections of every county shall place secure ballot drop boxes based on geographic location and population density to best serve the voters of each county in compliance with the guidelines adopted pursuant to subsection c. of this section.

New Mexico

N. M. S. A. 1978, § 1-6-9

N/A

Must be a “secured container” and monitored by video surveillance cameras.  Must include signage about ballot collection and electioneering.

County election officials determine the location and must be posted at least 90 days before a statewide election or 42 days before a special election. No information on number.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 254.470 and Vote by Mail Procedures Manual

N/A Must have official signage, be locked or sealed, tamper-proof and staffed.

There must be one dropsite at the county elections office, at least two dropsites per county, at least one dropsite for every 30,000 active registered voters and a dropsite within at least four miles of each public university or community college. County election officials must consider population, geographic areas, security and available funding when determining a dropsite location other than the county elections office or the County Courthouse.

Washington

West's RCWA 29A.40.160, 29A.40.0001

N/A Must be designed to prevent overflow.

Drop boxes must be located at each voting center and at least one other location. There must be at least one drop box per 15,000 registered voters in the county and at least one drop box in each city, town and place with a post office. There must be at least one ballot drop box on an Indian reservation at a site selected by the tribe and accessible by a public road.