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Reps. Sweeney, Lepore-Hagan fight to expand access to secure ballot drop boxes

Legislators fielded committee questions for nearly an hour and a half
May 5, 2021
Michele Lepore-Hagan News

COLUMBUS- State Reps. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) testified Tuesday in support of House Bill 209, their legislation expanding access to secure ballot drop boxes for all Ohioans. 

“Nearly one million voters in Cuyahoga County have to rely on one drop box location. That’s not right, and fixing it shouldn’t be controversial,” said Rep. Sweeney. “HB 209 would expand access to secure ballot drop boxes for every Ohioan, no matter where they live. This is not a radical idea – it’s just common sense.”

Currently, drop boxes are limited by the Secretary of State’s directive to only one location per county, the local Board of Elections. In urban counties, this limit has resulted in traffic jams and long lines at the drop off location. Likewise, voters in many rural counties would 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 more accessible and safer. They will increase participation in our elections,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan, 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 percent overall turnout, 70 percent of ballots cast via drop boxes

·         Number 5 Oregon, 75 percent turnout with 75 percent cast via drop boxes

·         Number 6 Washington, 75 percent turnout, 73 percent 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. HB 209 now awaits further hearings before the House Government Oversight Committee.