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Reps. Sweeney, Lepore-Hagan to introduce bill requiring multiple, secure ballot drop boxes

Legislation follows Secretary of State's refusal to accept court rulings
February 22, 2021
Bride Rose Sweeney News

State Reps. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today announced legislation requiring multiple secure ballot drop boxes, based on geography and population, to ensure a fair and equitable voting process. Current law permits multiple secure ballot drop boxes despite the Ohio Secretary of State’s choice to restrict them in the face of several court decisions.

“No matter where they live, every Ohio voter should have the option to physically drop off their ballot in a way that is both secure and convenient. This is not a radical idea – it’s just commonsense,” said Rep. Sweeney. “We should not have to spell it out for Secretary LaRose, especially when numerous courts have already upheld that he is allowed to do this under current law.”

This legislation, which instructs county Boards of Elections to consider geography, population, and population density when determining the location of drop boxes, comes on the heels of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose reissuing a contentious order once again limiting the number of ballot drop boxes to one per county for the May 4 primary.

While Michigan has over 700 drop boxes, there is one drop box for one million Ohio voters in Cuyahoga County, resulting in unnecessary traffic jams and long lines at the box. Likewise, voters in many rural counties have to travel long distances in order to drop off their ballots at the county seat, reducing the effectiveness of the option. 

“Secure drop boxes will strengthen democracy in Ohio by making voting easier and increasing participation in our elections,” Rep. Lepore-Hagan said, noting that drop boxes are already an essential component of electoral systems in three states that were among the leaders in voter turnout in 2020:

Number 2 Colorado, 76% overall turnout, 70% of ballots cast via dropbox
Number 5 Oregon, 75% turnout with 75% cast via dropbox
Number 6 Washington, 75% turnout, 73% cast via drop boxes.

“In each of these states, voters have access to hundreds of drop boxes located at schools, libraries, post offices, government buildings, shopping plazas, stores, and community centers in urban, suburban, and rural communities,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “We can and we should make voting just as easy here in Ohio.”

Ohio’s local governments and voting rights groups have long offered to cooperate with Boards of Elections to establish additional drop boxes. Under the proposal, a bipartisan team of election officials would close each drop box and promptly collect the contents together.