Voters advocates have wanted more ballot drop boxes to be installed throughout Ohio to allow for more convenient absentee voting.
Voters advocates have wanted more ballot drop boxes to be installed throughout Ohio to allow for more convenient absentee voting during the pandemic.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has issued a new directive allowing county boards of elections to install extra drop boxes for voters — but only at the elections offices. He has also authorized elections officials to set up an additional drop-off site “outside of the office” to collect ballots from voters.
LaRose has faced lawsuits this fall from voting advocacy groups and the Ohio Democratic Party seeking to allow for additional boxes to be installed throughout a county, not just at the elections offices.
Early voting begins in Ohio on Tuesday, with absentee ballots being mailed out that day to those who requested them.
Monday’s directive mirrors authorization already given to at least one county in Ohio.
The Athens County Board of Elections office in southeast Ohio has, in recent weeks, installed two drop boxes: one for the front entrance and another for the back entrance.
LaRose is not requiring that boards install extra boxes around its office — only that boards can vote to do so. The boxes must be secure and available to voters for 24/7 access.
Ohioans can drop off both absentee ballot requests and their ballots themselves to these boxes. Boards of elections follow rigid guidelines requiring that both a Democratic and Republican election official be present when the box’s contents are retrieved. The boxes are emptied once per day.
Drop box access is available through 7:30 p.m. on election night.
The directive allows Ohio counties to set up a separate ballot drop-off site to be staffed by a bipartisan team of elections officials. LaRose had already authorized one such site in Cuyahoga County, where elections officials plan to collect ballots at a parking lot near the board of elections office.
Boards of elections are not required to provide this option for voters, but can choose to do so.
The sites must have at least one Democratic and one Republican board employee collect ballots together; they must be wearing personal protective equipment; and they must use a secure container to place the ballots in. The board can decide its own schedule for providing this service.
One goal of this is to mitigate any traffic congestion near the county’s drop box.
This story is being updated.