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County election clerks, Secretary of State spar over use of ballot drop boxes

A sign reads "Election heroes work here," with a woman standing to the right.
David Dudley
/
Wyoming Public Media
Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee in the Elections Office in downtown Cheyenne.

This story is part of our Quick Hits series. This series will bring you breaking news and short updates from throughout the state.

The County Clerks' Association of Wyoming defended the use of ballot drop boxes in upcoming elections after Secretary of State Chuck Gray urged the state's 23 county clerks to forgo their use.

In a letter to county clerks dated Wednesday, Secretary Gray wrote, “I want to be unequivocally clear: I do not believe drop boxes represent a safe, secure, or statutory basis for absentee voting. For this reason, they should not be used in the 2024 Election and beyond.”

Gray added that they were only allowed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic after his predecessor, Ed Buchanan, gave directives to county clerks to use ballot drop boxes in 2020.

Malcolm Ervin, president of the County Clerks’ Association, said in his own statement that the use of ballot drop boxes is protected by statute.

"The phrase 'delivered to the clerk' allows for the use of a ballot drop box at the discretion of an individual County Clerk," Ervin said in the statement. "Without judicial interpretation or legislative clarity, we continue to hold our interpretation as the same."

Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee said she intends to allow the use of ballot drop boxes in her jurisdiction.

"We believe that use of the drop box is an administrative function that's permitted by statute," Lee told Wyoming Public Radio. "And that use of the delivery method for the ballot is at the discretion of the county clerk.They are a valid, valuable service to voters."

Absentee voting for the upcoming primary election runs from July 23 to August 19. The primary election is scheduled for August 20.

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

David Dudley is an award-winning journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Christian Science Monitor, High Country News, WyoFile, and the Wyoming Truth, among many others. David was a Guggenheim Crime in America Fellow at John Jay College from 2020-2023. During the past 10 years, David has covered city and state government, business, economics and public safety beats for various publications. He lives in Cheyenne with his family.
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