Each of Ohio’s 88 counties will have exactly one dropbox for voters to deposit their ballots in this November, Secretary of State Frank LaRose ruled Wednesday. Those who can’t or don’t want to make the trip will need to vote in person or mail their ballots in, as usual.
Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper said that stance worries him. He’s concerned people in some areas won’t have a fast, accessible way to vote.
“We’re in a pandemic,” he said Thursday. “We should be looking for every possible way to make voting easy and safe.”
2020 isn’t a usual election year, Pepper argued. The COVID-19 pandemic limits Ohioans’ ability to gather and likely will still be doing so in November. People who don’t vote ahead of time could end up in long lines on Election Day or opt to stay home altogether, fearing the risk of catching COVID-19.
And the United States Postal Service, dogged by a $2B budget shortfall, cost-cutting measures and a surplus of mail, is as slow in some communities as it’s ever been.
The third option, then, is the dropbox: A secure place where a voter can deposit their ballot and feel confident it will be counted accurately. Pepper said he worries the one-box-per-county rule means some voters would have to go far out of their way to get there — or, again, decide not to bother.
“I think it's really an insult to the voters that, to deliver your vote into a dropbox, you have to drive for an hour,” he said. “I mean, what a waste of people's time. … If other states can do this (adding ballot boxes) securely, which they do, if the current republican governor of Georgia is comfortable with it or Alaska, Ohio is, probably, I hope, smart enough to figure out how to do it, too.”
The Hamilton County Board of Elections had scouted out additional locations for ballot boxes before LaRose’s decision arrived. However, board member and Hamilton County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou said he was satisfied with the secretary’s choice.
Triantafilou had been worried, he said, that it would be too hard to find new, secure locations with 55 days left before voting starts.
“The perspective now is we should do it the way we've always done it,” he said, adding: “You've got a lot of ways to vote. That's what I would want the public to know. Not having dropboxes in remote areas that can't be monitored is not going to hinder your ability to cast a vote."
He also accused Pepper of raising objections to the one-box rule as part of a political maneuver.
Pepper dismissed them.
“There’s nothing political about a dropbox,” he said. “It’s a box where you put a vote in, that gets picked up by the board of elections.”
The two men agreed on just one thing: In this election, earlier is better.
If you are unsure of your voter registration status, you can look it up on LaRose’s website. To request an absentee ballot, print this request form, fill it out and mail it to your county’s board of elections.