COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A Franklin County judge ruled Tuesday that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose can’t limit county boards of elections to a single ballot drop box.
This comes after another defeat for LaRose at the Controlling Board Monday when it denied his request to prepay postage on absentee ballots.
LaRose’s office said he would soon appeal the decision, assuming the judge follows through and invalidates the secretary’s drop box order.
A record number of Ohioans are expected to vote using an absentee ballot this fall and they will have two options: turn the ballot in at their county Board of Elections or at a drop box. Another option is via mail.
The court said there are three unusual factors that frame the background of the case: the COVID-19 pandemic; no state law authorizing or prohibiting the use of drop boxes; and delays in the postal service.
In its ruling, the court called LaRose’s drop box restrictions “arbitrary and unreasonable.” The court also said LaRose’s arbitrary rules regarding drop boxes are “entitled to no defense.”
The Secretary of State’s office announced Tuesday afternoon that 1,398,347 absentee ballot applications have been received by county board of elections statewide, with almost 400,000 new requests in the last week.
Ballots for military and overseas voters will be sent starting at the end of this week, while all other ballots will be mailed on Oct. 6.
LaRose has said in the past that he would allow additional drop boxes it was legal to do so.
“With just under three months to go until election day, I don’t think it’s the time to change the way we’ve done things here in Ohio and add new drop boxes and questions about the validity of that and to risk litigation,” LaRose said last month.
A spokesperson from LaRose’s office issued the following statement following Tuesday’s ruling:
“Importantly, while the judge issued a declaration as to the law regarding the return of absentee ballots and drop boxes, he did not rule on the Plaintiff’s request to enjoin the Secretary’s Directive. Lacking that, today’s ruling didn’t change anything and the Secretary’s Directive remains in place. The law is clear: absentee ballots must be delivered by mail or personally deliver[ed] to the director’ of their county board of elections and ‘in no other manner’. Ohioans are fortunate that the judicial branch offers the opportunity to appeal a single trial judge’s opinion.”Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office
There is still time to request your absentee ballot. Early voting begins Oct. 6.
The court’s full ruling is below. App users, tap here.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.