After a state appeals court said Friday that Ohio’s top elections official has the discretion to limit the number of ballot drop boxes per county, Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that he was still prohibiting counties from setting up drop boxes at sites other than their county election offices. He is, however, letting them set up multiple boxes on their office grounds.
The half-measure is unlikely to placate LaRose’s critics, who say he is arbitrarily limiting the use of drop boxes.
According to the new policy announced Monday, more than one drop box can be set up at a county board’s location and a county board “may station bipartisan election officials outside of county boards to accept absentee ballots.”
In his statement announcing the loosened policy, LaRose said he intended to work with the legislature next year to clarify the law around drop box use.
The fight over Ohio’s ballot drop box use began this summer, after LaRose announced in August that local election officials were prohibited from setting up drop boxes at locations other than the one at their county board offices.
At the time, LaRose said that as a matter of policy, he had no issue with the idea of drop boxes, but that he believed state law constrained him from letting county boards expand their use.
The posture quickly got LaRose sued in state and federal court. The state Democratic Party had success in its state court case when a judge blocked LaRose’s August directive limiting drop box use. A state appeals court however scaled that victory back in its ruling Friday that left it up to LaRose to decide how widely drop boxes could be used, while making clear he was free to loosen those restrictions.
In the federal litigation, the judge was holding off on weighing in on the merits of LaRose’s August directive while the state case could unfold. But he did order LaRose to work with Cuyahoga County — home to Cleveland — on a solution that addresses its particularly cramped and inaccessible county drop box location.