The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the use of voter drop boxes. The board heard a presentation by SLO County Clerk-Recorder, Tommy Gong that recommended the devices in light of the activation of the California Voter’s Choice Act (SB 450) in 2020. The law, passed in 2016, expands in-person early voting opportunities and requires the mailing of ballots to every voter as well as allows citizens to cast their ballot at any vote center in the county. Furthermore, Law AB 216 requires that counties provide prepaid postage for vote by mail ballots.
Earlier in the year, Gong approached the council with the possibility of circumventing postage costs by utilizing drop boxes. He stated that the potential postage cost could be as much as $55,000 if the County uses the Business Reply indicia offered by the post office.
In his presentation, Gong stated that Santa Cruz showed ‘highly successful’ results with its use of drop boxes. He said that voters feel that they are submitting their ballot directly to the election office instead of going through the mail service.
Gong suggested the County have a minimum of 15 drop boxes be placed in areas where there is a higher concentration of voters using mail-in ballots. He recommended the construction of 18 drop boxes as a buffer should any unforeseeable mishaps should occur. Being part of the voting system, the cost of building the boxes is reimbursable through state grant funding.
“It comes to about $10,000 per election in order to support this program,” Gong said. He went on to explain that if 17,000 people voted using the drop boxes, the program pays for itself through saved postage. His conservative estimate used the current $0.55 rate for postage and did not take into account the guaranteed increase in postal rates.
The drop boxes will mimic the design of those used in Sacramento with one additional detail — Gong requested that they contain an “I Voted” sticker dispenser. He told the board that he believed that people would be more prone to vote early by using the boxes if they could still sport the coveted decal.
The only question brought forth before the program’s approval came from Councilmember John Peschong, who wondered about the security of the devices. Gong said that the boxes would be locked and possibly tethered to a secure object to keep them from “walking away.”