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Ohio Secretary Of State Prohibits Election Boards From Adding Ballot Drop Boxes

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.

With less than 12 weeks before the presidential election, Secretary of State Frank LaRose is instructing county boards of elections that only one secure ballot drop box will be allowed for each county.

LaRose, a Republican and Ohio's top elections official, sent a letter Wednesday with rules that all election boards around the state must follow.

Secure drop boxes for both absentee voting applications and ballots must be provided and monitored around-the-clock starting September 1. However, the directive says that "boards of elections are prohibited from installing a drop box at any other location other than the board of elections."

Voting rights groups and Democrats pushed LaRose to expand the number of secure drop boxes in each county. LaRose says he sought legal direction from Attorney General Dave Yost on if the state could allow more, but didn't get an answer in time.

"Just under three months to go until Election Day, I don't think it's time to change the way we've don't things here in Ohio and add new drop boxes and questions about the validity of that and also to risk litigation," LaRose says.

The Secretary of State says that initiatives like additional drop boxes and providing postage-paid absentee ballot requests need to be approved by the Ohio General Assembly.

Democratic lawmakers deny that claim, and pushed LaRose to make that directive.

“This choice to make voting more chaotic is confounding," state Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) said in a written statement. "If he has the authority to require one drop box, he has the authority to require multiple drop boxes. We need our state government leaders to do their jobs.”

LaRose also ensured that there will be in-person voting on November 3, a date that cannot be changed by the governor or president. Election boards must also allow curbside voting to anyone who is physically unable to enter a polling location.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.