This small town in northeast Kansas, along with many others, is at risk of losing drop boxes as Republicans question their security.
The GOP-controlled Kansas Senate approved a proposal that would reduce the number drop boxes in the state by more than 40% before the 2020 elections. It is part of , a Republican national effortto tighten electoral laws and reverse voter conveniences that were in place during the first year after the coronavirus pandemic.
This measure would likely affect small towns such as Lecompton, which is on the outskirts more populated areas, and other villages scattered across rural landscapes far from the county courthouse.
Republicans appeal to Trump supporters as they approach midterm elections. Trump falsely blames widespread voter fraud for Trump's 2020 election loss.
"That would be ironic, because they might end up hurting their own base," Davis Hammet, leader and founder of Loud Light, Kansas's voting rights group, said. It's about making sure citizens can vote easily.
The Kansas Senate passed the bill 22-17. It will now be sent to the state House for consideration next Wednesday. Each county could only have one box per 30,000 voters. Only 10 of the state's 105 Counties have more. Nearly half of the state's 48 counties would need to reduce their drop boxes. They would have to lose 80 out of the 191 boxes that were deployed in 2020.
During Wednesday's debate senators added a provision that would require counties to staff each drop box. This could discourage their use. Drop boxes would need to be locked during county elections office closings; many of them were left unlocked round-the-clock in 2020.
They claimed they were addressing the doubts of people about 2020 elections. Senator Dennis Pyle, a conservative Republican hailing from rural northeast Kansas said that he was concerned about the possibility of boxes being set on fire or taken away by trucks equipped with chains.
Pyle stated, "You know what? I've seen some insane things happen on YouTube."
Drop boxes are not allowed outside government buildings in liberal California. They are however restricted and guarded. Georgia has a threshold of 100,000 active voters for additional drop boxes. Iowa, however, limits them to one per county. Idaho lawmakers are looking at a ban.
However, Washington, New Jersey, and Colorado have established minimum drop boxes, rather than limiting their number, according to The National Conference of State Legislatures.
According to data compiled in part by the secretary-of-state's office, Kansas had an average of one box for every 10,000 registered voters in 2020. In 2020, 19 counties had at least one box for every 5,000 registered voters.
Wabaunsee County was west of Topeka and had four drop boxes for approximately 5,200 voters in 2020. One of these was outside Harveyville's city hall. It takes 40 minutes to get there from the county courthouse by the shortest route. This involves three state highways that twist through the hills.
"We do have people who will call you, you know?, the last day to say that I didn't receive my ballot in the mail," said Abby Amick the elected Republican county clerk.
Under the bill, more than 12 Kansas counties -- including Johnson County in Kansas City -- would not have exceeded their 2020 box limits. Thirteen counties, with less than 3,000 registered voters each, did not have drop boxes.
Rebecca Brassart, a Republican elected county clerk in Cherokee County, is skeptical drop boxes are secure. Her county, which has approximately 14,000 voters, was the most populous in 2020 without a dropbox.
She stated that most voters who request absentee ballots go to the Columbus County Courthouse.
She said that although we live in small towns, thieving has become a serious problem. "If someone wants to steal something, they're going after it."
Scott Schwab, Kansas Secretary of State, is a conservative Republican. He said Wednesday that drop boxes were more secure than the U.S. Mail, which, for Kansas communities, is processed outside the state.
Local elections officials explained that each ballot is assigned a code by the county and that secure envelopes must contain a signature from the voter. In a recent tour of the warehouse, Jamie Shew, Douglas County Clerk, demonstrated how two people are needed to unlock a box in order to collect ballots. Each person must have a separate key.
Schwab stated that "the argument around it doesn’t hold up against drop boxes."
Drop boxes will be lost in the counties of Douglas County, northeast Kansas. This is where you'll find the main University of Kansas campus. Lecompton, population 588, is also home. Shew, a Democrat elected, had nine deployed. Lecompton's collected 95 ballots during the November 2020 election. His county would only be allowed two.
He said, "It really hurts outlying communities within our county."
Four of six boxes in Wyandotte County, Kansas City's heavily Democratic county, would be lost. The county's elected election commissioner stated that only 3% of registered voters used them for the 2020 general election.
Connie Brown Collins, a local activist for voting rights, believes that there should be more drop boxes in the county. They help people who are unable to get to a polling station easily.
She stated that "we need more representation, not less" in terms of voting.