© 2023 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Courts Still Determining If Additional Ballot Drop Box Should Be Added In Ohio

In this April 28, 2020 file photo, Marcia McCoy drops her ballot into a box outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland, Ohio.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press

With one week to go before early voting begins, courts are still considering the arguments over whether Ohio’s counties will be allowed to have more than one ballot drop box.

The 10th District Court of Appeals is considering whether Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s order to allow only one ballot drop box per county is "arbitrary and unreasonable," as a Franklin County judge previously ruled.

Appeals Court Judge Susan Brown could buy LaRose’s argument that his decision is reasonable with so little time before the election.

Ohio State University law professor Steve Huefner says current Ohio law doesn’t provide any directives about drop boxes.

“It simply says a voter who has chosen to use a mail-in ballot can return it to the director (of the Board of Elections) either by personally delivering it or by mailing it back," Huefner says.

While LaRose said he supported adding more ballot drop boxes and would abide by a court ruling, he didn't think Ohio law permitted county election boards from using more than one. And although he asked Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost for his legal opinion earlier this summer, LaRose withdrew his request just before Yost was set to respond. He then issued a directive to county election boards restricting them to just one ballot box.

The Ohio Democratic Party and a coalition of voting rights groups filed separate lawsuits against the directive, arguing that it disproportionately hurts larger, urban counties and potentially disenfranchises voters who don't trust the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail-in ballots.

A lawyer for the Ohio Democratic Party says LaRose's evolving public statements and erratic actions prior to issuing the directive prove his order is not reasonable. The Secretary of State's Office says the directive is trying to protect election boards from confusion and possible security risks.

A federal court has said it will wait to see the ruling of the state appeals court before weighing in.

Early voting in Ohio begins on October 6. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by November 2, or can be dropped off at a ballot drop box until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. Election advocates encourage voters to fill out and send in their ballots as soon as they receive them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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.