After weeks of pressuring the state, the Ohio Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to allow local boards of elections to install more secure ballot drop boxes.
The lawsuit comes two weeks after Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive prohibiting county election boards from installing drop boxes anywhere but an election board. In many counties, that puts the ballot box outside of population centers and mostly inaccessible without a car.
Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper said the goal of the lawsuit is to clarify whether the law limits each county to a single drop box. Pepper said he thinks it’s not too late to add more boxes before Election Day on November 3.
“My hope would be that we wouldn’t get caught in endless litigation. This is something that almost everyone is looking at agrees is simply pro-voter," Pepper said.
Pepper said counties could use federal pandemic relief funds to add more drop boxes, because they reduce crowds at polling places, allow people with health concerns to vote from home and help with stress on the postal system.
Democrats and voting rights groups have pushed for ballot boxes in several states, citing a document from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission that recommends states maintain one secure ballot drop box for every 15,000-20,000 registered voters.
LaRose asked Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost for a legal opinion on the drop box issue, but dropped the request earlier this month, saying there wasn’t time to add more before early voting starts in October. Yost's office issued a statement saying LaRose’s request didn’t contain a specific deadline, and that Yost was about to issue an opinion when LaRose withdrew his request.
"Just under three months to go until Election Day, I don't think it's time to change the way we've don't things here in Ohio and add new drop boxes and questions about the validity of that and also to risk litigation," LaRose said at the time, adding that initiatives like expanding drop boxes must be approved by the Ohio General Assembly.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is October 31 at 12 p.m. If you're voting through the mail, your ballot must be postmarked by November 2 to be counted. You can drop the ballot off at your county's drop box anytime before November 3 at 7:30 p.m.