With early voting already underway in Wyoming and less than a month before the general election, newly-appointed Secretary of State Karl Allred has asked county clerks to consider removing ballot drop boxes.
“I do not wish to interrupt or cause confusion to the voting process that is already in-progress, but I will ask that you make an honest assessment as to whether or not discontinuing the use of your drop box would cause any disruption for your voters,” Allred wrote in a letter dated Oct. 7.
Allred’s letter was an informal request and not a statutorily sanctioned directive, so clerks are not legally required to take any action. The state’s election code strictly limits the use of directives to emergencies.
“Since drop boxes are not prohibited by the statute, a directive to prohibit them would conflict with current statute,” Kai Schon, director of the secretary of state’s election division, wrote in an email. “However, there is no conflict in kindly asking the county clerks to discontinue use on their own terms.”
The request does, however, appear to be a reversal from Allred’s declared intent during the appointment process when he said he was “only interested in maintaining the office.”
Gov. Mark Gordon selected Allred out of three candidates put forth by the Wyoming Republican Party’s state central committee to fill a vacancy left by Secretary Ed Buchanan. The appointment is temporary since the winner of the general election will be sworn into office in January. That is very likely to be Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) who does not have an opponent on the ballot.
During his campaign, Gray has told voters he would ban ballot drop boxes. Such an action would require legislative action, since the power to make new laws or change existing election laws lies within the Legislature, according to the Wyoming Constitution.
Ballot drop boxes have become controversial since the 2020 election due to unsubstantiated claims that they are vulnerable to voter fraud. Nine counties — Albany, Big Horn, Fremont, Johnson, Laramie, Park, Sheridan, Sweetwater and Teton — used ballot drop boxes in the 2020 election without any problems. Allred acknowledges this in his letter.
“I’m mindful of the fact that there have been no issues reported with the use of drop boxes in Wyoming, but that does not alleviate the potential for abuse or destruction of ballots through use of fire or other means,” Allred wrote.
Allred did not return calls to WyoFile for this story.
Currently, seven counties across Wyoming employ ballot drop boxes, according to Schon.