Amid Legal Fight, OH Lets Counties Set Up Multiple Drop Boxes … At The Same Location

A ballot drop off sign stands outside of the Board of Election office in Dayton, Ohio on March 17, 2020 after the Ohio Primaries were cancelled. - Ohio health officials ordered the state's polling stations closed f... A ballot drop off sign stands outside of the Board of Election office in Dayton, Ohio on March 17, 2020 after the Ohio Primaries were cancelled. - Ohio health officials ordered the state's polling stations closed for Tuesday's Democratic primary, as the governor defied a court ruling and declared a health emergency over coronavirus."While the polls will be closed tomorrow, Secretary of State @FrankLaRose will seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options so that every voter who wants to vote will be granted that opportunity" at a later date, Governor Mike DeWine said late Monday on Twitter. (Photo by Megan JELINGER / AFP) (Photo by MEGAN JELINGER/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS

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.

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