Frank LaRose Makes It Harder For Ohioans To Return Absentee Ballots

LaRose Bans County Boards of Elections From Providing Multiple Secure Dropboxes for Absentee Ballots

COLUMBUS — After stonewalling for weeks by requesting and then awaiting a completely unnecessary legal opinion from fellow Republican Attorney General Dave Yost, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose apparently didn’t need the legal opinion after all, as he issued a directive today banning county boards of elections from providing multiple secure dropboxes for voters to return their absentee ballots.

“Ohioans have used secure dropboxes to return their absentee ballots for years — and it was never a problem until Frank LaRose decided to make it one,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “When county boards of elections and local officials started to explore making these dropboxes more accessible to more voters — by installing multiple locations around their counties as happens in many other states — LaRose decided to step in and stop them. LaRose’s claims that he needs statutory authority are baseless and should be viewed for what they plainly are — an excuse to rein in boards of elections that are trying to make it more convenient for voters to cast their ballots safely and securely during a global pandemic. In the end, he didn’t even wait for the legal opinion he claimed he needed and that he used to keep boards from preparing to add more dropboxes. What a total sham.”

States around the country — GOP-run (like Georgia and Alaska), Democratic-run (Washington and Oregon) and mixed (Wisconsin) — use secure dropboxes widely, with neither controversy nor partisanship. These states locate voter dropboxes at libraries, city halls and other locations.

Follow the timeline of events:

On July 14, the Hamilton County Board of Elections voted 3-1 to investigate the cost and feasibility of installing four additional secure dropboxes. Given problems with the recent primary election, other county boards of elections had similar discussions.

On July 20, LaRose sent a letter to Yost, requesting his office’s legal opinion as to whether county boards of elections could install multiple secure dropboxes or if the current dropboxes (which were required in all 88 counties for the primary election) were even legal at all. His office communicated with boards of elections that they should not take action until he received a response from the AG.

(As WVXU’s Howard Wilkinson put it — it appeared that “LaRose is looking for an excuse to do away with the drop boxes altogether.”)

On July 21, legal counsel for the Ohio Democratic Party sent a letter to Yost explaining that nothing in Ohio law prohibits boards of elections from providing secure dropboxes — and nothing limits the number of those dropboxes.

On July 28, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson sent a letter to LaRose and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections expressing his support for allowing secure dropboxes at Cleveland recreation centers and libraries.

On July 30, Mayor John Cranley sent a letter to the Hamilton County Board of Elections expressing his support for increasing the number of secure dropboxes in the city of Cincinnati.

Today — more than one month after the Hamilton County Board of Elections first moved to look into installing additional dropboxes — LaRose issued his directive outlawing the board’s action.