Utah sees decline in use of drop boxes in the 2022 midterms

Aug 16, 2023, 3:39 PM | Updated: Aug 17, 2023, 7:48 am

A person's hand is photographed dropping a ballot into a Utah drop box....

FILE: A man submits his ballot at a drop box at the Salt Lake County government building in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. (Chris Samuels, Deseret News)

(Chris Samuels, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s been a big dip in the number of Utahns using a drop box to return their ballot, according to data from the 2022 midterm elections.

In the 2019 and 2020 general elections, 86% of voted ballots were returned via drop boxes, according to data provided by Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch.

By the November 2022 midterms two years later, only 58% of ballots statewide were returned via drop boxes.

Hatch said there’s a clear explanation for the drop.

“It comes down to misinformation,” Hatch said.

“2000 Mules”

A big factor, he said, was a movie that came out in May 2022, called “2000 Mules.”

“That supposedly exposed all this massive fraud related to drop boxes,” Hatch said. “Of course, no one was ever charged and it could not be proved, but it alleged a lot of fraudulent activity related to drop boxes.”

The movie claims that Democratic-aligned groups, or “mules” were running a criminal enterprise. It suggested they were using drop boxes to collect ballots and stuff boxes in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Associated Press reports the film is “based on faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and improper analysis of cellphone location data, which is not precise enough to confirm that somebody deposited a ballot into a drop box.”

But it appears it cast enough doubt to impact Utah — even with multiple drop box security checks in place. 

Utah drop box security

A camera monitors any drop boxes in the state, as required by law. 

County clerks never let any single worker access or open the drop boxes by themselves. The visit is logged every time a worker visits.

Officials move ballots from the boxes to the clerks’ offices in duffel bags that can fit about 2,000 ballots. Workers seal those bags with an orange zip tie bearing a unique number.

That number matches the number on a form inside the bad. The form can only be accessed from inside that sealed bag to prevent tampering.

Further, every ballot envelope has a unique code on it which prevents ballot stuffing. The code is entirely unique to that voter and to the specific election — and also to the exact envelope and ballot.

Officials never make those numbers public and they’re virtually impossible to recreate or get, Hatch has said previously.

Utah’s controls catch attempted fraud

Ballots are now in the mail for those who have a municipal primary election or those registered Republicans in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District special election.

Hatch provided KSL NewsRadio with a presentation given to lawmakers covering voting by mail. That presentation revealed that voter fraud is much more likely to occur at the voter registration level — or people trying to vote twice.

“In 2018, Weber County identified 18 people (out of about 85,000 ballots cast) who, in our opinion, blatantly attempted to vote twice,” Hatch said. “Our controls prevented each of them from doing so.”

“To prevent fraud, signature matching is a key control (EVERY signature is compared, not just a sample). Our election judges are trained in signature comparison,” he wrote.

He said they worked with the Weber County Attorney and had the FBI contact and interrogate every voter.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Utah sees decline in use of drop boxes in the 2022 midterms