Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Ballot Drop Boxes? Oh, hell no! Baby Drop Boxes? Yeah, baby!

When Women Became No Longer Equal, Part 10: Drop Boxes for Ballots? No. Drop Boxes for Babies? Yes.

As we approach the 2022 mid-terms, Republicans continue their efforts to limit access to voting, and one of their favorite targets is the ballot drop box. Not to be confused with a drop box of which they entirely approve, a baby drop box. 

Or, to put it more simply, a drop box for ballots? Ohmygod, NO! That's not a safe place to leave a paper ballot. A drop box for babies? Yay, of course! That's a perfect place to leave a  baby. 

Isn't this great?
A baby drop box!
(Joseph C. Garza,
Tribune Star)
Mind you, ballot drop boxes are nothing new. More than twenty years ago--in 2000--the state of Oregon became the first state to eliminate traditional polling places entirely and to rely exclusively on mail-in ballots, the new system including drop boxes in addition to post boxes. 

In Washington state, where I live, I haven't had to line up on Election Day to cast a vote at a polling place since 2011, when an all-mail ballot system was adopted. I usually just returned my ballot in the mail, but on a couple of occasions, I didn't have a stamp, so I used a drop box, located at the public library just a few blocks from my house. 

And, then, after 2018, I didn't need to find postage any more. I could slip my completed ballot into the mail for my letter carrier to pick up, but if I completed the ballot on Election Day and wanted to make sure my vote counted, I could still deposit it in a drop box.

Mail-in voting--along with the convenience of ballot drop boxes--has proven to be popular and trouble-free. The widespread availability of ballots drop boxes has also improved voter turn-out
As data from Washington state show, more people chose to use drop boxes in every single election in almost every county in the state to a record high of 73% in 2020. Election clerks in Utah similarly observed that drop boxes grew more popular every year. Notably, Republican- and Democratic-led states alike used them for years without controversy.
But making it easy for voters to vote? Obviously Republicans decided they had to shut that down right away, even in the midst of a global pandemic. And so, with increasing fervor and fever-induced tales of fraud, they've done their best to eliminate ballot drop boxes entirely. 

It was Donald Trump (who else?) who stoked the rage against ballot drop boxes with a tweet (just one in a series of violations before he was banned from Twitter . . . ):

Tweet reproduced from The Verge

Right on cue, the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio reduced the number of ballot drop boxes to one in each county, and required that box to be located at the county board of elections. This "contentious order" was reissued in 2021, and the same limited access to ballot boxes is still in place for the 2022 elections.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott followed, issuing a similar decree limiting each county to one drop box, an order that was challenged in both state and federal court but ultimately upheld "by the all Republican" Texas Supreme Court. One drop box per county, regardless of whether the county is populated by 64 people (Loving County) or 5.7 million people (Harris County). Seems fair, right?

In Tennessee, the Secretary of State testified before a U.S. Senate committee that "drop boxes could enable people to violate a state law against collecting ballots," while in Missouri, the Secretary of State decided against using drop boxes--boxes that had already been purchased--because "we didn't want to confuse voters." (I find drop boxes very confusing, don't you?)

The Trump campaign brought suit in Pennsylvania to stop the use of drop boxes in the fall of 2020, and then when that suit was thrown out of court, decided to videotape voters who were dropping off ballots at drop boxes (nothing wrong with a little intimidation, right?) and then threatened to sue again. A similar lawsuit was filed in Michigan. The court decided against the plaintiffs and then denied a request for an appeal. 

Not to be outdone, Republicans also filed a suit to eliminate drop boxes in the state of Wisconsin. Just weeks ago, in July 2022, after much legal wrangling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court weighed in--drop boxes are illegal.

Iowa’s new law restricts drop boxes to a single box at the office of the county election commissioner that will be inaccessible when the office is closed. Florida’s Senate Bill 90 restricts drop boxes to early vote locations and requires them to be monitored in person at all times. . . . [N]oted conspiracy theorist and Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers (R) has prefiled a bill in Arizona that restricts both drive-thru voting and drop boxes in a state with a long history of voting by mail and even has a permanent absentee voter list open to all voters. In Georgia, Republicans decided the restrictions they enacted last year didn’t go far enough and the Senate president has introduced a new bill that would ban drop boxes completely. Even in Utah, Republicans are cooling on drop boxes, with a group organizing to put an initiative on the ballot in 2022 that would eliminate mail voting entirely and drop boxes with it.


Just to be clear. This is dangerous and crazy: 

This will not keep a ballot safe.
(A King County, WA ballot drop box, King County Elections.)

But this is great:

This is perfect for a baby.
(An Indiana baby drop-box.)

Yes, this is the perfect solution for American women who are now second-class citizens, who are now no longer fully human, no longer rational and autonomous beings who are entitled to make decisions about their own lives--women who are living under the new forced-birth regime. 

A baby box is the Judge Amy Coney Barrett-approved solution for all those women who have been denied the ability to control their own lives. Don't want to endure a forced pregnancy? What's the big deal? A few months of effort and you can just give birth and dump your unwanted newborn into a "safe haven" baby drop box, then continue on your way to Starbucks or the nail salon. Problem solved. The baby box is perfectly safe! The baby box is perfectly secure! And it's totally "private"--unlike ballot drop boxes, baby drop boxes are not under 24-hour surveillance!

 It also helps to alleviate one of Judge Samuel Alito's big worries, a shortage in the "domestic supply of infants"! Don't want to have a baby? Well, that's too bad, have one any way, then pop it into a baby drop box, and do your part to help meet the demand! (For Alito's worry about the "domestic supply of infants," see page 34, note 46 of Dobbs v. Jackson. the opinion he authored.)

A medieval baby box, 
ruota degli espositi ["wheel of the exposed"]
Ospedale Santo Spirito,

I might add here that, if ballot drop boxes are nothing new, neither are baby drop boxes. 

In his history of infant abandonment, The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Chidlren in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance, the late historian John Boswell explains how the subject first came to his attention:

While collecting information about early Christian sexual mores for a previous study, I came across the argument by several prominent theologians of the early church about why men should not visit brothels or have recourse to prostitutes because in doing so they might unwittingly commit incest with a child they had abandoned. "How many fathers," asked Clement of Alexandria, "forgetting the children they abandoned, unknowingly have sexual relations with a son who is a prostitute or a daughter become a harlot?" "Those who use the services [of prostitutes,]" Justin Martyr warned, "may well commit incest with a child, a relative, or a sibling."  
At first I was stunned by how peculiar and oblique an argument this was . . . but in the end I found even more surprising the implication that the writers' contemporaries abandoned children so commonly that a given father was likely to encounter his own child in a brothel? Was this possible? . . . I never imagined that [the abandonment of infants] was a widespread or common practice, and certainly had not thought that Christians abandoned babies.
Something to think about in this brave new Republican world, isn't it? You can't get an abortion, so you use a handy baby drop box. Who knows where--and when and how--you might run into this child again? Not that either of you will know your paths have crossed--for more than a decade, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has opposed the use of baby boxes, which "contravenes the right of the child to be known and cared for by his or her parents":
UN officials argue that baby hatches violate key parts of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which says children must be able to identify their parents and even if separated from them the state has a "duty to respect the child's right to maintain personal relations with his or her parent. . . . "

No worries about any inconvenient meet-ups, right? 

Another medieval baby drop box,
Ospedale degli Innocenti,

So, as a woman, you may no longer be equal in the United States, and you may discover that it is increasingly difficult to find a ballot drop box near you, but with any luck at all, there is a baby drop box conveniently located right around the corner!

Are we living in the best of times, or what?

As a note: I've posted this as part of a post-Dobbs series, "When Women Became No Longer Equal," but given the medieval foundling wheel precedent for baby boxes, I might just as well have posted it under an earlier, equally disgruntled, series, "Back to the Future." (To read more posts in either series, click the label, below.)