DC ballot drop boxes: What you need to know

Mail-in ballot drop box at Petworth Library. (WTOP/Will Vitka)

Imagine a vault for your vote. That’s what D.C.’s mail-in ballot drop boxes are.

Drop boxes allow residents to make sure their ballots get into the right hands, without the need to go to a voting center in person or put them in with regular mail.

When most people think of the best way to protect something valuable, a bank vault or a safe quickly springs to mind. And that’s what D.C.’s ballot drop boxes are, more or less: Safes for your votes.

“These are huge things,” D.C. Board of Elections Chair Michael Bennett told WTOP. “They’re 450 pounds, or thereabouts, and 6-feet tall.”


Bennett said they’re also double-locked, with a lock on the outside and the inside.

“There’s a slot at the top that’s just large enough for your ballot to fit in,” Bennett said, which can be locked. “There’s actually double lock on (the box). You go into one chamber with the lock, and we’re the only ones that have the key, and then you go into the next chamber, and that’s where the ballot sits.”

The lock for the mail-in ballot drop box at Petworth Library can be seen above. (WTOP/Will Vitka)

He said that, given the size of the slot for the ballots, it’s unlikely that anyone could tamper with what’s inside.

“I guess somebody could run a truck into it, but we’ve got security on the boxes, and they’re all in places that are well-lit and all that,” Bennett said.

He added that he tries to avoid talking specifics when it comes to drop box security for a simple reason: “I don’t want people to know all the things that we’re doing to make sure the boxes are secure.”

At the Petworth Library in D.C., the drop box sits around the corner from the main entrance.

There is a guard inside the library but not at the drop box itself.

Wording on the front of the drop box warns against interfering: “Any tampering with the ballots or drop box is a crime.” And lettering in red says the box is under surveillance.

D.C.’s mail ballot drop boxes are available until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

The District has a searchable map online for voters and a page specifically for drop boxes.

WTOP’s John Aaron contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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