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NW Ohio boards of elections mainly silent on ballot drop box issue

An Ohio judge ruled Tuesday the secretary of state's directive of only one ballot drop box per county was unreasonable. The secretary is appealing the decision.
Credit: WTOL 11
Drop off box that was available for voters during the primaries at the Lucas County Board of Elections.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Boards of elections staff in northwest Ohio have little to say after a judge ruled Tuesday that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's directive of one ballot drop box per county was unreasonable. 

LaRose's office released a statement, saying the directive remains in place because the judge didn't rule on placing an injunction on it.

"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.”

RELATED: Lucas County commissioners pleased by ruling saying Ohio counties can have more than One ballot drop box

RELATED: Court: Ohio counties can have more than one ballot drop box; LaRose's office says directive still in place

But on Wednesday, a Franklin County judge issued a preliminary injunction allowing county boards of elections to provide more than one drop box per county. 

When issuing the decision, the judge did so "with the understanding that he (the secretary) will notice his appeal within 24 hours of this Entry so as not to delay final resolution of the case." 

LaRose's office released a statement following the injunction, saying the secretary believes Ohio law is very clear about the limited ways absentee ballots can be returned. 

"Secretary LaRose is pleased that the court cleared the way for his appeal of this very important issue and that the judge stayed his ruling pending the outcome of the appeal. Secretary LaRose believes the law is clear about the very limited ways that absentee ballots may be returned to county boards of elections under Ohio law. Specifically, it states 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”. At the Secretary’s direction, the Attorney General has filed the Notice of Appeal," the statement from Press Secretary Maggie Sheehan read. 

Lucas County Board of Elections Deputy Director Tim Monaco released a statement Tuesday morning, before the injunction was issued, agreeing with LaRose's office. 

"The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer and a directive carries the weight of law. The Director, Deputy Director and the members of the Lucas County Board of Elections will follow the directives of the Ohio Secretary of State," he said. 

WTOL 11 reached out to 13 other boards in northwest Ohio. Below are their answers:

Sandusky County BOE Director Sharie Chagnon: On July 13, 2020, the Sandusky County Board of Elections voted unanimously to purchase two additional drop boxes for the county and are now waiting for the issue in the courts to be resolved before proceeding.

Hancock County BOE Director Lori Miller: Said the board will meet Thursday morning to discuss this issue, but members will probably decide to follow LaRose's directive.

Henry County BOE Director Mary Detmer: Declined to comment, but said the board will follow the secretary of state's directive.

Ottawa County BOE Director Carol Ann Hill: The board will leave to the courts and the secretary of state's office to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the board will provide one box.

Putnam County BOE Director Karen Lammers: Declined to comment, but said the board will provide one box.

Fulton County BOE Director Melanie Gilders: Declined to comment, but said the board will provide one box.

Erie County BOE Director Lori Salyers: Declined to comment, but said the board will follow the secretary of state's directive.

Wood, Seneca, Huron and Wiliams counties boards of elections directors Terry Burton, Lori Ritzler, Cecilia Blevins and  A.J. Nowaczyk, respectively, declined to comment.

The Defiance and Paulding counties boards of elections staff did not respond to our requests for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect new information from the Sandusky County Board of Elections.

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