TOLEDO, Ohio — The members of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday said they "were extremely pleased" with the decision of Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye to give local board of elections the flexibility to determine the number of ballot drop boxes for their counties.
“This is a victory for voting rights in Lucas County and the State of Ohio,” said Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County Commissioners. “We have nearly 430,000 residents in Lucas County, including many who want the right to vote and will want to have the opportunity to deliver their ballot in person. We are excited that Lucas County residents will have more accessibility and flexibility to participate in the November election.”
However, a statement from the Ohio Secretary of State's Office said that Secretary Frank LaRose's directive to have only one drop box per county would stand despite Frye's ruling.
"Importantly, while the judge issued a declaration as to the law regarding the return of absentee ballots and drop boxes, he did not rule on the Plaintiff’s request to enjoin the Secretary’s Directive," the statement from spokesperson Maggie Sheehan said. "Lacking that, today’s ruling didn’t change anything and the Secretary’s Directive remains in place. The law is clear: absentee ballots must be delivered by mail or personally deliver[ed] to the director’ of their county board of elections and ‘in no other manner.' Ohioans are fortunate that the judicial branch offers the opportunity to appeal a single trial judge’s opinion.”
The Lucas County commissioners and the city of Toledo last week jointly filed a motion asking to file an Amicus Brief in the lawsuit filed by the Ohio Democratic Party and Lewis Goldfarb against LaRose. The brief argues that, under state law, county boards of elections, not the state of Ohio, are authorized to determine how many ballot drop boxes are needed to safeguard a person’s right to vote, and that LaRose exceeded his authority by issuing a directive that limited county boards of elections to just one drop box per county.
“We gladly joined the lawsuit with our partners in Toledo to make sure that everyone who is eligible to vote has the chance to do so in the safest, secure way,” Commissioner Pete Gerken said. “We will work with the Lucas County Board of Elections to take the necessary steps to secure off-site ballot box locations throughout the county for residents to deliver their ballots in person. I call on our board of elections to meet immediately and confirm that we will have ballot boxes throughout Lucas County.”
Commissioner Gary L. Byers said, “The decision of Judge Frye is consistent with other court rulings and Ohio election law in supporting the fundamental rights of all citizens to vote. This is a common sense, logical way to ensure that the completed ballots of voters will be counted in the election. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the delay in the delivery of mail, this is one way to ensure ballots will get to the board of elections.”
OHIO VOTING DEADLINES TO KNOW
- Voter registration deadline: Oct. 5
- In-person early voting person starts: Oct. 6
- Deadline to request absentee ballot: Oct. 31 by noon
- Latest date to postmark absentee ballot: Nov. 2
- Last day to submit absentee ballot by drop box: Nov. 3 by 7:30 p.m.