Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Thursday that he will abide by a final court ruling or action by the legislature on ballot drop boxes, but insisted that making any more changes this close to the start of early voting will be confusing.
"Perhaps in this late hour is not really the time for making big changes," LaRose said. "You don't want to rebuild the aircraft in-flight. We have a reliable and very trustworthy, and time-honored, system of how we run elections in Ohio."
Democrats and voting rights advocates, who sued the state's top election official to allow more than one drop box per county, say that LaRose wasted time appealing a Franklin County court ruling that would allow him to do so. They argue his directive limiting ballot drop boxes threatens to create backlogs in large counties.
Speaking at the Akron Roundtable, LaRose reassured voters about the ability of the state to deal with a large increase in absentee ballots during the pandemic. He cited the state's nearly two decades worth of experience in no-fault absentee voting.
"Long before we were talking about a pandemic, what we were focusing on with our board of elections was making sure we protect our elections infrastructure," LaRose said. "And when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security tells other states to follow Ohio as an example, that tells us that we're doing something right."
LaRose says he is also working to ensure Ohio's elections are secure and accurate and guarantee the best safety practices and voting options.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, who once served as secretary of state, says there’s no good reason not to allow more than one drop box per county. He says more people than ever are likely to vote this year, and they don’t want to risk contracting COVID-19 by voting in person.
“Why are these geniuses in Columbus saying, ‘Oh you can only have one per county.’ It’s not expensive. It doesn’t compromise the safety of the vote," Brown said. "We know how to do it."
Brown and other Democratic members of Ohio’s congressional delegation penned a letter to LaRose urging him to allow more than one box per county, saying his directive "will undermine the ability of many Ohioans to vote." Brown said local boards of election want more drop boxes and should be allowed to have them.
Ohio is expected to know as early as next week whether an appeals court will allow more than one voting drop box in each county for people to hand deliver their absentee ballots. The court is also expected to rule on electronic applications for absentee ballots.
Ohio begins mailing absentee ballots and allowing early in-person voting on October 6.