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Ohio Secretary Of State Faces Second Lawsuit Over Ballot Drop Boxes

The secure ballot drop box at the Franklin County Board of Elections on Morse Road.
Darrin McDonald
The secure ballot drop box at the Franklin County Board of Elections on Morse Road.

A second lawsuit has been filed against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose over his decision to ban county election boards from installing more than one secure ballot box this election.

This new federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday by voting rights advocates and civil rights groups such as the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio and the Ohio State Conference of the NAACP.

League of Women Voters of Ohio director Jen Miller says more drop boxes are crucial before November's contest, especially now that there are questions about timely mail service.

“Having multiple drop boxes per county increases access and trust for voters, especially those who are immune-compromised, who do not have transportation or live further out from the board of elections," Miller says.

LaRose's directive instructs local election officials to install just one ballot drop box at the county board of elections, which are rarely centrally-located or easy to access without a car.

LaRose says he doesn't believe he has legal authority to add more boxes now, and that it would create confusion this close to the election. Pressed by voting rights groups and Democrats, who argue the Secretary of State's office can in fact expand ballot boxes, LaRose asked the Ohio Attorney General's office for a legal opinion but withdrew his request earlier this month.

The recent lawsuit argues that LaRose "substantially burdens Plaintiffs' and their members' constitutional right to vote" by forcing them to choose between risking their health to vote in person, or their mail-in ballot not being counted due to U.S. Postal Service delays.

"The Directive further unlawfully favors voters in counties smaller in population over those counties larger in population, in violation of equal protection of the law," the lawsuit continues. "While the Directive substantially burdens all Ohioans, that burden is greater for those who live in more populated counties because only one drop box is available per hundreds of thousands of registered voters in the county."

The lawsuit asks the court to declare LaRose's directive unconstitutional and issue an injunction preventing him from enforcing it.

The Ohio Democratic Party has filed a similar suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is October 31 at 12 p.m. If you're voting through the mail, your ballot must be postmarked by November 2 to be counted. You can drop the ballot off in-person at your county's drop box any time before November 3 at 7:30 p.m.

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.