Ohio Dropbox Legal Case Concludes, Establishing That Ohio Law Does Not Limit Boards Of Elections To A Single Dropbox For Returning Ballots

Boards of Elections Free to Install Additional Dropboxes at Convenient Locations for Ohio Voters

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Democratic Party’s lawsuit against Secretary of State Frank LaRose to clarify state law regarding the installation of multiple ballot dropboxes in each county has concluded without any further appeal by the secretary, clearing the way for boards of elections to take action to make voting by absentee more convenient for Ohio voters.

“During the 2020 general election, too many Ohio voters experienced long lines, chaos and confusion caused by Frank LaRose’s arbitrary decision to limit county boards of elections from installing secure dropboxes at multiple locations for the return of vote-by-mail ballots,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “We went to court to try to make voting more convenient for Ohioans, but LaRose fought us every step of the way. However, our lawsuit in the dropbox case is now concluded, and LaRose has decided not to continue his appeals. The law on this is clear. At the trial court and appellate levels, judges have ruled that expanded dropbox locations are allowed under Ohio law. We look forward to local boards of elections taking action to make voting by mail more convenient for Ohio voters.”

Last week Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye ordered the case dismissed.

LaRose had contended that he actually sought litigation on this issue to “establish once and for all if we had authority to expand ballot drop boxes beyond just at the board office.”

LaRose’s attorney told a federal judge, “At the end of the day, the state court — you know, through the conclusion of that litigation — say that, you know, that multiple boxes are the way to go, then that’s what we’ll do. We’ll follow what the court says.”

Meanwhile, this is what Ohio voters had to deal with during the 2020 election:

From the appellate court’s opinion:

From paragraph 1:  “We agree with the trial court that the Secretary’s interpretation of R.C. 3509.05 is not reasonable and that the statute neither prescribes nor prohibits ballot drop boxes at locations other than the boards of elections.”

From paragraph 1: “If, as appellees argue, the Secretary wants to permit additional drop boxes, he has the authority to do so and nothing in this decision prohibits him from rescinding Directive 2020-16 and issuing a new directive accordingly.”

From paragraph 31: “Thus, we find the Secretary of State’s interpretation of R.C. 3509.05(A) to be unreasonable, and it is therefore not entitled to deference. Instead, we agree with appellees and the trial court that R.C. 3509.05(A) does not limit the number or locations of drop boxes that a board of elections may provide. We further agree with appellees and the trial court that R.C. 3509.05(A) does not limit the Secretary of State from instructing boards of elections that they may have multiple drop boxes at alternate locations in their respective counties.”

From paragraph 46: “If the Secretary wants to permit additional drop boxes as allowed by statute, he has the authority to do so, and nothing in this decision prohibits him from rescinding Directive 2020-16 and issuing a new directive.”

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