In the summer before the contentious November 2020 election, the Democrats' most influential election lawyer, Marc Elias, used the pandemic to urge liberal grassroots groups to press for the deployment of mass drop boxes to collect an expected wave of absentee ballots.
"Local libraries, church groups and civic associations should explore with local election officials setting up secure ballot drop boxes," he wrote in an op-ed. "There may even be a role for businesses to play in preserving our right to vote through drop box placement and security.”
The Democrats prevailed, as all but 10 states allowed drop boxes. And key battlegrounds like Georgia deployed them widely, especially in large blue counties like Fulton and Dekalb, where as many as 25% to 50% of absentee voters used them, according to media analyses.
But now that movement is facing pushback from influential Georgia Republican state Sen. Butch Miller. He authored the state election integrity law passed in March that tightened the rules for, but did not eliminate, ballot drop boxes.
Now, Miller says, he believes the drop boxes are too ripe for abuse and should be eliminated, introducing Senate Bill 325 this month to change the election integrity law to eliminate the authority for drop boxes.
"Drop boxes were introduced as an emergency measure during the pandemic, but many counties did not follow the security guidelines in place, such as the requirement for camera surveillance on every drop box," he said. "Moving forward, we can return to a pre-pandemic normal of voting in person.
"Removing drop boxes will help rebuild the trust that has been lost. Many see them as the weak link when it comes to securing our elections against fraud. For the small number of Georgians who need to vote absentee, that will remain as easy and accessible as it was before 2020."
Miller's bill comes as he prepares to run for lieutenant governor of Georgia next year, and his position on drop boxes is certain to pit him in opposition to the leading Democratic candidate for governor, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams.
Abrams has been an unabashed supporter of drop boxes, cheering them on in other states like Colorado while arguing they are key to increasing access to minority voters. In last November's election, she tweeted a video of herself placing her absentee ballot in a drop box and urged others to do so on Twitter.