by Robin Kemp

Before early voting began on October 12, officials had approved placing additional ballot boxes at recreation centers throughout Clayton County. After long lines on the first day of early voting, it appears that the county is installing even more ballot boxes.

A new, smaller ballot box was just installed at the Forest Park library branch.

Elections and Registration bought four ballot boxes to be installed at the Carl Rhodenizer, Virginia Burton Gray, South Clayton, and Lake Spivey rec centers. The move came after the State Election Board “voted to extend the emergency rules regarding official absentee ballot boxes and early scanning of absentee ballots through the rest of the year,” Director Shauna Dozier wrote in her Oct. 7 September operations report. “The newly added official absentee drop boxes will be installed to be used starting with the November General Elections upon delivery by the vendor.” Dozier said the boxes were paid for by a grant, using CARES ACT funds, from the Board of Commissioners.

A ballot box in Clayton County, GA
Clayton County Elections and Registration Director Shauna Dozier

Dozier said the vendor was supposed to have delivered the ballot boxes by October 1. However, the county still had not gotten the boxes by October 7: “As soon as they are received, preparations have already been made to install immediately,” Dozier wrote. “In the meantime, the Official Absentee Drop box located at the Elections Office is available to any Absentee Voter who chooses this option to return their ballot.”

In addition, Dozier “requested and was awarded at least two (2) additional absentee drop boxes from the Secretary of State at no cost to the county,” scheduled to arrive by Saturday, October 10. The state grant covers up to $3,000 or 75 percent of the cost to buy and install the extra ballot boxes.

Voters in line next to a ballot box at the Clayton County Courthouse, Jonesboro, GA, Oct. 23, 2020
Voters wait in line next to the ballot box at the Historic Courthouse in Jonesboro, GA, October 13, 2020.

However, on Monday and Tuesday, The Clayton Crescent observed county ballot boxes, still wrapped in plastic, outside the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center on Monday, October 12 and the Virginia Burton Gray Recreation Center on Tuesday, October 13. The boxes were in plain view of exterior security cameras, but not accessible to voters.

A ballot box wrapped in plastic, Clayton County, GA, October 13, 2020
A ballot box wrapped in plastic outside the Virginia Burton Gray Recreation Center, Riverdale, GA, October 13, 2020
A ballot box wrapped in plastic outside the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center, Rex, GA, October 12, 2020

On Wednesday, October 14, The Clayton Crescent found a smaller, different-looking ballot box, with county signage and a notice from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, that had just been installed at the Forest Park library branch. The box, marked with a blue chevron and red and white stripes, is in full view of the exterior security camera on the left side facing the entrance.

A freshly-installed ballot box under the watchful eye of a Clayton County security camera at the Forest Park library, Oct. 14, 2020

A librarian named Roland said a crew had installed the box Tuesday and returned to check it Wednesday. He said that, originally, the box was to have gone inside, but then it would not have been accessible after business hours. He added that Clayton County’s IT department was responsible for the security camera, which had been installed on the building long before the ballot box arrived.

A Clayton County security camera at the Forest Park library, Oct. 14, 2020

Noting that the book drop boxes there had been damaged previously, he said, “That’s why they put it back here. They moved the garbage can so they could put it here,” away from the curb and under the security camera. “That’s how we caught the person who hit the (book drop) boxes.”

Voters: Be aware that political activists cannot, by law, pick up or drop off your absentee ballots for you. If you can’t do it yourself, get a relative or roommate to do it–or ask someone to give you a ride so you can place your ballot in the box yourself.

The main library said that it “had nothing to do with the boxes” and that no one was available (at close of business) to confirm whether all branches would be getting the new ballot boxes.

Clayton County voters who prefer absentee ballots can drop them off at an official Clayton County ballot box in front of the Forest Park library branch, among other county-authorized locations.

Voters may be suspicious of the new box, which looks different from the one at the Historic Courthouse in Jonesboro. In California, the Republican Party illegally placed ballot boxes at various locations, including gun shops, churches, and party offices. President Donald Trump urged them to continue the practice. California GOP officials say they’ll put out even more boxes but drop the word “official” from the boxes themselves.

Absentee ballot boxes must meet several requirements under Georgia’s Election Board rule:

  • Ballot boxes must be under continuous video monitoring with adequate lighting
  • County registrars must keep the video recording “until either 30 days after the final certification of the election or the conclusion of any election on the ballot in the county, whichever is later. “
  • Ballot boxes must be “located on county or municipal government property that is generally accessible to the public.”
  • Ballot boxes must be “securely fixed to the ground, be strong enough to withstand vandalism or bad weather, and must be constructed to prevent the tampering or removal of ballots.”

The Clayton Crescent has been unable to reach the county Elections and Registration Office since early voting began. We did ask the county to explain why the two boxes we saw were wrapped in plastic and when they would be available for voters to use.