Ohio’s Drop-Box Limit for Ballots Draws Suit by Voter Group

Bookmark

Ohio’s plan to allow only one drop box to collect absentee ballots in each of its 88 counties is the target of a voting-rights lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s Aug. 12 directive will suppress voting, especially in densely populated counties where hundreds of thousands of people will be forced to share one drop box, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Cleveland.

The rule bars county boards of elections from installing secure drop boxes anywhere other than at their local offices “regardless of the size or population density of the county.”

The situation is a double whammy for voters who want to avoid crowded polling places during the coronavirus pandemic but don’t trust the U.S. Postal Service, which has been plagued by delays and claims that recent changes will undermine the vote. Ohio’s rule may force such voters to send ballots by mail at a time when the USPS is experiencing “massive changes to its core infrastructure and has issued warnings about its ability to deliver election-related materials in a timely manner,” according to the suit.

LaRose supports legislation that would allow additional options for voters to return absentee ballots, according to Maggie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for his office. LaRose is also trying to get the Ohio Controlling Board to let him pay postage on absentee ballots, “effectively making every blue mail box an absentee drop box,” she said.

“As an executive office holder, he must follow the law as the legislature writes it,” Sheehan said in an emailed statement.

Separately, Mississippi Secretary of State, Michael Watson, and Attorney General Lynn Fitch were hit with a lawsuit Thursday challenging as unconstitutional the state’s absentee-ballot requirements, including a notarization of identity. The suit claims the state has failed to make clear who qualifies to use absentee ballots during the pandemic.

“Mississippi’s highest election officials should ensure that all Mississippi voters are confident and clear about how they can vote safely during this pandemic,” Caren Short, a senior attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement. “Instead, they are sowing confusion and refusing to safeguard the right to vote.”

Kendra James, spokeswoman for Watson, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment after regular business hours.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.