Sorry, I thought you had ash getting on the bottom of the smoker. It is normal for ash to get on the element. And that ash should just fall out of the box when the smoker is cooled and you can take the box out with bare hands.
You can fold a piece of doubled over tin foil and cover 2/3 of the box and try a smoke to see if you get all charcoal instead of ash and whether that smoke taste is better.
For my smoker, when run without boats, I get combustion and a thick white/yellow smoke. That smoke when sniffed is bitter and acrid. When I use the boats, the smoke is a thinner white and is much more pleasant to smell.
You could also try doing a "ramp up method". You start at about 160 deg to get the smoke going for 30-45 min then raise temp to 200 for 30-45 min, then raise temp to target temp. The idea is that the element isn't on for a continuous length of time initially and therefore the wood doesn't combust. I'm a Lazy Q guy and don't want to fiddle with temps so I use the boats.