COLUMBUS — (UPDATED @ 6 p.m., Aug. 17): Every county board of elections must install a drop box at the boards’ office that will be available 24 hours, seven days a week in the run up to Election Day on Nov. 3, in an order Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is calling a first-ever move in a general election.
He issued the directive after learning six months ago there were "only a scattered few" drop boxes in select Ohio county boards of elections and they were not always available, he said this week in a prepared statement.
Before this year's primary, House Bill 197 directed boards of elections to place drop boxes at the board office, the legislature had never before authorized drop boxes at all. Because HB 197 was temporary law, LaRose's order to require drop boxes this fall is actually an expansion of opportunities for voters.
"Today there are 88, and beginning Sept. 1 they will be available 24/7," he said. "They can be used for the return of ballots AND [sic] the return of absentee ballot requests."
LaRose said he wants counties to be able to place drop boxes throughout their counties, but state law doesn't allow it.
Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said she has been part of the group advocating for more boxes throughout the state.
“We have had one for several years outside our building and it works well,” she said Friday night. “We have moved it on the west side of our building onto Vista View Drive.
Lieberman said the commission will put forth a resolution next week asking LaRose to allow for more drop boxes in the county.
"We could pay for the additional boxes with COVID money," she said. "Out thought was to place them at libraries."
Champaign County election board Director Meredith Bodey said that county had a smaller box for the primary that was checked several times a day.
"This fall, we will have one large box outside the office, placed at the front of the building with easier handicapped accessibility," Bodey said.
Darke County did have a drop box for the primary, Sue Snipes, board of elections administrative assistant, said Monday. The same box will be used for the 2020 general election, she said, and there will not be more than one drop box.
In Shelby County, board of elections Director Pamela Kerrigan said that county has a mail slot in the door at the county office now did as well as for the primary.
“We also have a mail box for picking up applications, et cetera, for voters use after we are gone for the evening or before we arrive in the morning,” she said. “We are in the process of getting a drop box ... with the funds provided to our office and will have it in place for use during voting for the November General Election.
Kerrigan said the county, if permitted by the Ohio Secretary of State, may consider more than one drop box.
Preble County utilized a drop-off box for the primary outside of the county Courthouse and intends to use the same box for the general election in November, board of elections Director Terri Hans said Monday.
WHIO will update this report as we learn more from other area counties.
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