COLUMBUS, Ohio – A directive restricting Ohio counties to one ballot box in November was arbitrary and unreasonable, a county judge ruled on Tuesday, handing the Republican secretary of state on the presidential battlefield another in a series of blows to its policies.
The office of Secretary of State Frank LaRose said it will soon appeal Judge Richard Frye’s decision on the common Franklin County grounds, assuming the judge follows and invalidates the secretariat’s order.
For now, Frye’s ruling changes nothing, LaRose spokeswoman Maggie Sheehan said in a written statement, “and the Secretary̵
Access to ballot boxes has become a pressing issue nationwide, with in-person voting options limited by the coronavirus pandemic and the efficiency and safety of mail-order voting being questioned amid cuts to the U.S. postal service. .
It is often largely democratic urban counties – such as Cleveland’s home of Cuyahoga – that seek to expand the number of mailboxes. Cuyahoga must serve more than 860,000 registered voters with a single personal mailbox under the order of LaRose.
Last month, the Ohio Democratic Party and a coalition of voting rights groups sued LaRose over the directive, calling it unconstitutional. It banned election committees from installing more than one mailbox located at the county election council, effectively holding boxes to the number of lawmakers made available in the Ohio presidential primary.
LaRose cited a state election law that says absentee ballots must be “delivered by mail or in person” to a voter’s county election director. He said he personally supports counties adding more drop boxes, but that he lacks the legal authority to expand the number beyond what is set by law.
But Frye said the wording of the law makes it ambiguous to “deliver”: “It does not exactly answer whether mailboxes are allowed, or if so how many mailboxes can be used, or where they can be placed by an electoral council.”
Because the law is vague, Frye said, counties must be legally allowed to explore the placement of additional boxes.
“Although the secretary has wide discretion to issue directives and otherwise lead local electoral councils, his actions must be reasonable to be legally enforceable,” Frye wrote. “Completely arbitrary rules are not entitled to any deference.”
In response to the ruling, State Democratic Party chairman David Pepper demanded that LaRose adjust to the occasion.
“It’s time for the Secretary of State to do what he told the public and officials he was going to do,” Pepper tweeted. “No more delays. No more appeals. No more wasting time. “
The mailbox decision was the third issue LaRose has faced since Friday, when a county judge ordered him to allow voters to apply for absentee voting for the November presidential election by electronic means, including by fax. or email. That decision was suspended Saturday as the appeal proceeds.
On Monday, Republican colleagues on the powerful state oversight council voted against LaRose’s proposal to use funds from his office’s business services budget to pay for postage on every ballot in the state.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, statewide electoral employees of the presidential battlefield rushed to mail absentee ballots Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the state Supreme Court lifted a temporary ban on submission. while considering a legal challenge.
“Oh, we’re busy,” said Wendy Helgeson, the Greenville City Clerk who is also president of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association.
More than 1,850 employees in municipalities large and small were working to meet the Thursday deadline in state law to mail ballots to the more than 1 million voters who had requested them so far. Absence votes can be requested until October 29, but election officials have urged voters to act faster given the expected large numbers and delays with the mail.