Several Northeast Ohio boards of elections are expanding their capacity to accept dropped-off absentee ballots amid a surge in early voting.
Local election officials are adding drop boxes and ballot collection points—but they’re doing so only in the immediate vicinity of boards’ headquarters, following an Oct. 5 directive from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.
A federal judge’s order allowing off-site ballot collection is on hold pending an appeal from LaRose’s office.
In addition to using on-site drop boxes, voters can also cast ballots by mail or vote early in person at county boards of elections.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections offers two spots to drop off completed absentee ballots: the box in the board’s small parking lot and a staffed collection point in the Campus International High School lot.
Both are off of East 30th Street in Cleveland, where the board is based. Local election officials had planned to collect ballots at six libraries in the county, but that part of the plan is now on hold pending the outcome of the drop box lawsuit.
The Campus International High School drop-off location is open during the same hours as the board’s early in-person voting times.
Election officials in Lake County have bought a second drop box to install outside their office in Painesville, Board of Elections Director R. Ross McDonald said. It will complement the box already outside the board headquarters.
The new box shipped from Wisconsin and is expected to arrive at the board early next week, he said.
The board had considered hosting a ballot collection event elsewhere in the county, but the secretary of state’s latest drop box directive prevented that, McDonald said.
The ballot drop box at the Lorain County Board of Elections stands between the board’s parking lot and its office, meaning that voters have to approach it on foot.
Steady flow of people dropping of their ballots in Lorain County’s official ballot drop box.
But the board plans to staff an additional collection point outside the office so that voters don’t have to leave their cars to turn in their ballots, Director Paul Adams said.
“We are going to set something up in the parking lot here soon to do a ballot drop-off drive-thru, because we have so many people that are coming in to drop off their ballots in person.”
In Ravenna, the Portage County Board of Elections does not plan to set up a second drop box, Deputy Director Theresa Nielsen said.
The board’s current drop box is in the parking lot of the county administration building. So far, officials have not seen traffic backups in the large lot, Nielsen said.
“We did talk about putting up a secondary one,” she said, “but couldn’t come up with a location that was better than where we currently have it.”
With reporting from Jenny Hamel and Matthew Richmond.