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LWV of Ohio Challenges State’s Ban on Additional Ballot Drop Boxes for General Election

Drop Boxes Are Important Option for Voters Who Vote from Home 

CLEVELAND, OH—Late Wednesday, the League of Women Voters of Ohio filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State LaRose challenging his unconstitutional August 12 order limiting drop boxes to one per county. The League asks the court to rescind this order and adopt a reasonable drop box-to-voter ratio for each county. Joining the League are Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Ohio State Conference of the NAACP, and seven individual voters. 

“Access to the vote depends on safe, reliable options for casting a ballot, and limiting drop boxes to one per county severely diminishes this access. To do so during a deadly pandemic is negligent and foolhardy,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “Ohio should emulate other states by allowing multiple, secure drop boxes per county, otherwise communities of color, rural Ohioans, immunocompromised individuals, and income-sensitive voters lacking affordable transportation face unfair barriers to the ballot. As the COVID-19 virus continues to threaten the lives of Ohioans, the State should be focused on expanding safe voting options, not reducing those we do have.” 

Following Ohio’s April 28 primary election—which had been delayed from March 17—the League of Women Voters of Ohio and county election boards began expressing the need for counties to install more than one secure drop box ahead of November. Multiple drop boxes were needed so that more voters could drop off their absentee ballots and applications without increasing the burden on the US Postal Service and to reduce in-person lines for early and election day voting. The need for more secure drop boxes was compounded by delays in US Postal Service delivery and the elimination of 34 mail sorting machines throughout the state, which have caused many voters to lose confidence in the mail system. 

“Due to the perceived uncertainty surrounding this election, the pandemic, and the historic level of voter suppression, voters must have as many safe and reliable options as possible to cast their ballots,” said Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Now is not the time for states to limit voting options, now is the time to act to ensure safe and efficient elections in which all eligible voters can confidently participate.” 

In addition to organizational partners, the League is joined in this case by seven individual Ohio voters, Beatrice Griffin, Sarah Rikleen, C. Ellen Connally, Matthew Nowling, Ryllie Jesionowski, Soli Collins, and Marcus Germany. The plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Dechert LLP, and local Cleveland counsel.  

“Secretary of State LaRose’s ban on additional ballot boxes is nonsensical in the age of COVID, when voters are concerned with protecting their health while exercising their constitutional right to vote,” said Andre Washington, Ohio state president of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute. “We are committed to fighting voter suppression so that Ohioans can exercise their right to vote safely and without barriers.” 

“The Ohio State Conference of the NAACP is pushing for more drop boxes so that our voters have the option of voting without having to rely on the postal service—and so that other barriers to voting are less of a factor,” said Tom Roberts, president of the Ohio NAACP. “At a time when we are all dealing with a global pandemic, the State should be doing everything possible for voters to cast their ballot without having unnecessary challenges such as travel time, long lines, traffic jams, and lack of transportation, to name a few obstacles.” 

“It is time for Ohio’s highest election official to stop using voter suppression tactics, and focus his efforts on making sure all Ohio voters can safely cast their ballot during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “Voters who do not have personal access to reliable transportation, or who are wary of using mass transit during this time may not have the ability to reach the singular drop box in their county. It has been proven that drop-off boxes are a secure method of obtaining ballots, and these can be placed in locations much closer to a voter’s residence. Secretary LaRose is hindering the fundamental right to vote at a time when he should be doing all he can to encourage voter turnout and voter confidence by promoting options that have already been proven to be safe and secure.” 

"Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's scheme to suppress our most fundamental right—our vote—isn't just abhorrent: it's recklessly homicidal," Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland-based civil-rights lawyer, former Cleveland law director, and local counsel in the case. "LaRose imposed his edict to limit ballot drop boxes to just one per county when (1) by election day, a deadly virus will have killed over 250,000 of our fellow Americans and seriously sickened millions, (2) the White House and Postmaster General are choking off mail service, and (3) Ohio's largest counties have hundreds of thousands of voters for just a single drop box. Why is LaRose so willing not just to undermine democracy in the most important election of our lives, but to endanger Ohioans? Voters shouldn't have to choose between their lives and their votes. Federal courts must stop LaRose's scheme and ensure voting is both accessible and safe for all." 

“We are committed to ensuring that all eligible voters are able to cast a ballot safely and securely and with confidence that their vote will be counted,” said Dechert LLP partner Neil Steiner. “Particularly in light of the well-documented issues with mail delivery, drop boxes for the return of mail-in ballots is a critical part of ensuring that all Ohioans are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote.” 

Ohio voters can request an absentee ballot right now, and ballots must be received at election offices before the close of the polls on November 3, or postmarked no later than November 2. 

Read the complaint here.

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CONTACT: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]