Volunteers help voters as voters drop off their ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Phoenix. In Arizona, Maricopa County, the nation's second-largest voting jurisdiction, a steady stream of cars go in and out of the parking lot to deliver ballots at the drop box location. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Volunteers help voters as voters drop off their ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Phoenix. In Arizona, Maricopa County, the nation's second-largest voting jurisdiction, a steady stream of cars go in and out of the parking lot to deliver ballots at the drop box location. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona reported no damage, stolen ballots, or fraud associated with ballot drop boxes in 2020.

ATLANTA (AP) — The expanded use of drop boxes for mailed ballots during the 2020 election did not lead to any widespread problems, according to an Associated Press survey of state election officials across the US that revealed no cases of fraud, vandalism, or theft that could have affected the results.

The findings from both Republican- and Democratic-controlled states run contrary to claims made by former President Donald Trump and his allies who have intensely criticized their use and falsely claimed they were a target for fraud.

Drop boxes are considered by many election officials to be safe and secure, and have been used to varying degrees by states across the political spectrum. Yet conspiracy theories and efforts by Republicans to eliminate or restrict them since the 2020 election persist.

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Drop boxes also are a focal point of the film “2,000 Mules,” which used a flawed analysis of cellphone location data and ballot drop box surveillance footage to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In response to the legislation and conspiracy theories surrounding drop boxes, the AP sent a survey in May to the top elections office in each state seeking information about whether the boxes were tied to fraudulent votes or stolen ballots, or whether the boxes and the ballots they contained were damaged.

All but five states responded to the questions. Republican-led Florida and North Dakota and Democratic-led New York did not respond. Montana and Virginia did, but did not answer the survey questions related to the 2020 election.

None of the election offices in states that allowed the use of drop boxes in 2020 reported any instances in which the boxes were connected to voter fraud or stolen ballots. Likewise, none reported incidents in which the boxes or ballots were damaged to the extent that election results would have been affected.

A previous AP investigation found far too few cases of potential voter fraud in the six battleground states where Trump disputed his loss to President Joe Biden to affect the outcome.

Drop boxes have been a mainstay in states with extensive mail voting for years and had not raised any alarms. They were used widely in 2020 as election officials sought to provide alternative ways to cast ballots with the COVID-19 outbreak creating concerns about in-person voting. The boxes also gave voters a direct method for submitting their ballots, rather than sending them through the US Postal Service and worrying about delivery delays.

Starting months before the 2020 presidential election, Trump and his allies have made a series of unfounded claims suggesting that drop boxes open the door to voter fraud. Republican state lawmakers, as part of their push to add new voting restrictions, have in turn placed rules around when and where the boxes could be accessed.

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Arizona Assistant Secretary of State Allie Bones said drop boxes are “safe and secure” and might even be considered more secure than Postal Service mailboxes. She said bipartisan teams in the state collect ballots from the drop boxes and take them directly to secure election facilities, following so-called chain-of-custody protocols.

“Not to say that there’s anything wrong with USPS, and I think they do a great job as well, but the hysteria around ballot drop boxes I think is just a made-up thing to create doubt and fear,” Bones said.

Arizona has had robust mail-in voting for years that includes the use of drop boxes, and in the AP survey, the state reported no damage, stolen ballots, or fraud associated with them in 2020.

Nevertheless, Trump-aligned lawmakers in the state pushed for legislation that would ban drop boxes, but were stymied by Democrats and several Republicans who disagreed with the strategy.

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