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Ohio Democrats Want More Ballot Drop Boxes On Election Day

Jim O'Bryan drops off his election ballot in the drop box at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press
Jim OBryan drops of his election ballot in the drop box at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Cleveland.

Voting rights groups say they fear the possible consolidation of polling places this November, due to the ongoing pandemic, will lead to long lines like the ones Ohioans experienced in 2004. 

The head of Ohio’s Democratic Party has urged the state to use more secure ballot drop boxes, but met resistance from the state's Republican leaders.

Drop boxes look similar to mailboxes, but in Ohio, there’s only one in each of the 88 counties. The drop box is located at the board of elections.

Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper says putting secure drop boxes in more locations could provide more voters access, and make sure people won’t have to trust the U.S. Postal Service to deliver their completed ballots.

“So that, rather than going into the postage system and the added days that adds to the process, and rather than adding a stamp, you put it in the vote-by-mail dropbox and the board of elections staff pick up those ballots every single day," Pepper says.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose says he’s open to the idea, but they’d have to be in secure locations, and he’s concerned they can’t be deployed in time.

“If it's legal to add extra drop boxes, then I'm certainly open to that idea," LaRose sys. "It's a question that I've asked the Attorney General to clarify, because the Ohio Revised Code is definitely not clear as to the question of whether counties can add additional drop boxes."

LaRose says he’s not sure how counties would get the word out about where those boxes would be located. He is also concerned about how the ballots in those boxes would be handled.

“Almost everything about elections ends up becoming a subject of litigation, and the last thing we need weeks before the election is to have a dozen different county board of elections having to go to court over whether they can continue counting ballots that are deposited in their drop boxes,” LaRose says

Democrats have sent a letterto Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost saying there’s nothing in the law to prevent boards of elections from adding those boxes for the fall election.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.