The D.C. Board of Elections is opening 55 ballot drop boxes across the city Monday, a move officials say is designed to make voting easier ahead of the November general election.
D.C is mailing ballots to every registered voter, whether they requested one or not. Some of those ballots were delivered last week and more should arrive in coming days. Voters can either drop their ballots in the boxes, mail them via the U.S. Postal Service or cast a ballot in-person once early voting opens Oct. 27.
Michael Bennett, head of D.C.’s elections board, said he’s expecting as many as 80 percent of voters to vote via “mail-in” ballot, whether they place their ballots in a dropoff box or through the mail.
But he also warned of potential long lines on Election Day, predicting “triple the turnout” of previous contests. That’s why he’s encouraging voters to cast their ballots as soon as possible to prevent any delays and to help reduce the health risk of crowding into polling sites amid a pandemic.
“The sooner that you vote, the better off everybody is, including yourself,” Bennett told the News4 I-Team, adding: "The biggest thing is to make sure that you sign the ballot, that you sign the envelope and it is clearly marked."
Ballots will be collected twice a day from the 55 drop boxes, which Bennett says are monitored and under video surveillance. He said the District will process the ballots as soon as they’re returned and has hired extra workers to open envelopes, match signatures and scan ballots in.
He says his biggest worry is voter confusion, since the District, Maryland and Virginia have different timelines and processes. For example, in addition to every voter receiving a ballot, D.C. voters who don’t use the mail-in ballot option can cast their vote at any polling location, instead of an assigned precinct — a change from previous years. Elections workers are also mindful of increased scrutiny as President Donald Trump has led high profile attacks on the U.S. Postal Service and cast doubts on mail-in voting.
"Everybody understands that we're under a microscope and they're focused on trying to get things done, get it done quickly and getting it done right,” he said.