WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with U.S. Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9), Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3), Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11), Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Elections, penned a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose blasting him for, deceptively, directing alternative ballot drop boxes to be placed alongside existing units. Sec. LaRose’s directive serves as little more than political cover for his ongoing, unilateral campaign to hinder Ohioans’ ability to vote. They also urged Sec. LaRose to live up to his word and permit multiple drop boxes to be located throughout each county, in the wake of three court rulings affirming his authority to do so.

On Sept. 18, the lawmakers sent a letter to LaRose urging him to comply with a Franklin County Court of Common Pleas’ ruling directing him to allow multiple secure ballot drop boxes.

“Allowing a second drop box to be located right next to the one currently in place at county Boards of Elections is a naked attempt to provide yourself with political cover, in response to the growing calls you face from around the state to permit multiple drop boxes throughout each county. While you may have achieved the talking point that you ‘allowed multiple drop boxes per county,’ your policy does nothing to make it easier for Ohioans to cast their ballot,” the Ohio lawmakers wrote in their letter.

“Now that three courts, state and federal, have agreed that the plain meaning of the law  allows for the installation of multiple drop boxes, we are writing to let you know of these court findings. Therefore we urge you to be true to your word and immediately allow multiple secure ballot boxes dispersed throughout each county,” the lawmakers continued.

In September, the lawmakers sent a letter to LaRose urging him to work with the skilled and dedicated tradespeople of Ohio to locate additional drop boxes across all 88 counties. The men and women of Ohio State Sheet Metal Workers Locals #24 and #33, as well as the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, have said they stand ready to build additional secure ballot boxes, at no cost to the state. LaRose’s recent appeal of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas’ ruling directing him to allow multiple secure ballot drop boxes is the latest example of how he has injected considerable uncertainty at an already challenging time for elections officials, working on tight schedules and budgets.

Brown, Kaptur, Fudge, Beatty and Ryan also sent a letter to LaRose in September asking him to use his existing authority to prepay postage for absentee ballots and ballot applications for the upcoming 2020 General Election in Ohio. The lawmakers also urged LaRose to communicate with the Postal Service to ensure ballots that originate in Ohio are delivered on time, with visible postmarks, and do not succumb to delays and cost cutting measures, which could endanger timely delivery of vote by mail ballots.

In August, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis and the Trump administration’s attempts to undercut the United States Postal Service (USPS), LaRose inexplicably banned county boards of elections from providing more than one ballot drop box for completed absentee ballots. He acted to ban additional secure drop boxes at the same time that absentee ballot applications were “pouring into Ohio’s boards of elections at an unprecedented rate.” In response, Brown, Kaptur, Beatty, Fudge, and Ryan urged him to reconsider his decision, explaining his clear authority to permit multiple drop boxes in each county. This authority was affirmed by the Franklin County Court’s recent ruling.  

Full text of the letter sent can be found here and below:

 

October 05, 2020

The Honorable Frank LaRose

Secretary Of State

22 North Fourth Street, 16th Floor

Columbus, Ohio 43215

 

Dear Secretary LaRose:

We are deeply troubled by your deliberately deceptive directive released today with the headline “LaRose Issues Directive on Additional Options to Return Absentee Ballots.”[1] While this directive is clearly intended to lead Ohioans to think that you will now allow additional drop boxes to be located throughout each county, in reality, it does nothing of the sort. Allowing a second drop box to be located right next to the one currently in place at county Boards of Elections is a naked attempt to provide yourself with political cover, in response to the growing calls you face from around the state to permit multiple drop boxes throughout each county. While you may have achieved the talking point that you “allowed multiple drop boxes per county”, your policy does nothing to make it easier for Ohioans to cast their ballot.     

We wrote to you a month and a half ago urging you to permit multiple secure ballot drop boxes in each of Ohio’s 88 counties and explaining your clear legal authority to do so. Instead of heeding our advice in the spirit of helping all Ohioans access the ballot box, you responded saying that you were “unaware” of any law allowing additional drop boxes and sarcastically asked that if we were “aware of any such provision, [to] please let [you] know at [our] earliest convenience.” This is not a game. Now that three courts, state and federal, have agreed that the plain meaning of the law[2] allows for the installation of multiple drop boxes, we are writing to let you know of these court findings. Therefore we urge you to be true to your word and immediately allow multiple secure ballot boxes in each county.

When asked about the availability of multiple drop boxes you replied “I have been 100% clear on this I want more drop boxes! I would love to see more drop boxes! …To me it’s clear though I have no legal authority to do that and it will just result in litigation and confusion.”[3] Now that three Courts have agreed, there is no longer confusion and there is no need for further litigation unless you decide to appeal. First, Judge Frye of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas called your decision to limit drop boxes “arbitrary and unreasonable”.[4] Then Judge Polster, a federal judge from the Northern District Ohio, told you “nothing in state law prohibits off-site drop boxes.”[5] Finally, on Friday, Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals told you that “If…the Secretary wants to permit additional drop boxes, he has the authority to do so and nothing in this decision prohibits him.”[6]

You have wasted a month and a half of precious time and taxpayer resources defending an incorrect legal interpretation. The clock is ticking, and Election Day is less than a month away. We ask that you immediately rescind Directive 2020-16 and replace it with a directive which allows county boards of elections to provide additional secure ballot boxes. County boards of elections, not bureaucrats in Columbus, know best about the number and locations of secure ballot boxes needed to support their communities. Finally, we would be remiss if we failed to mention that Ohio’s Sheet Metal Workers have graciously offered to build drop boxes at no cost to the State, removing all monetary barriers that might have existed.  We thank you for your prompt attention to and resolution of this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

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