COLUMBUS – Today, Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued Directive 2020-22, making it clear that 1) every Ohio county board of elections may install more than one secure receptacle at their board for the return of absentee ballots, and 2) the board may station bipartisan election officials outside of county boards to accept absentee ballots.
As a result of LaRose’s two recent directives, all 88 county boards of elections are now required to accept absentee ballots 24/7 via secure receptacles at their office and election officials are able to collect completed absentee ballots outside of the county board of elections at convenient drive-through ballot drop offs. Ohio voters now have more options to return absentee ballots than ever before. These options are in addition to the most convenient and commonly used method for voters to return absentee ballots - by mail - which continues to be a safe and standard method for absentee voting. Additionally, voters may cast a vote early in-person or in-person on election day.
As has become all too clear in the recent litigation over secure receptacles (or “drop boxes”), what the General Assembly meant when it required in R.C. 3509.05 -- that if not mailed, absentee ballots must be personally delivered “to the director” and in no other manner -- must be clarified by the legislature. Secretary LaRose will ask the legislature to partner with him when the next General Assembly begins its term in January to provide the necessary clarity.
On October 2nd, David Becker, a noted and respected elections expert stated the following:
According to the Center for Election Innovation & Research website, Becker is the Executive Director and Founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research. Prior to CEIR, he served as Director of the elections program at The Pew Charitable Trusts, driving reforms in election administration, including using technology to provide voters with information they need to cast a ballot; assessing election performance through better data; and upgrading voter registration systems. Before Pew, he served for seven years as a senior trial attorney in the Voting Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he led numerous investigations into violations of federal voting laws regarding redistricting, minority voting rights, voter intimidation, and vote dilution.
“Tomorrow, absentee ballots will begin being mailed out to over 2 million Ohioans who requested them and voting starts at 88 early voting locations across the state in what will be the most accessible election in state history,” said LaRose. “Despite predictable partisan politics that attempt to create phony crises, we have kept our eye on the ball and Ohio’s election officials are ready to administer a safe, secure, and accurate election.“
Just as Ohio is a clear leader in early voting with 216 hours including evenings and weekends, Ohio is also a national model for absentee voting. Of the 42 states that run a traditional absentee voting system, a comprehensive review by the Brookings Institute determined no state does it better than Ohio.
More than 2 million Ohioans have requested an absentee ballot – putting Ohio on pace to more than double the number of ballots cast by mail in 2016. Election mail is expected to be efficiently and effectively transported to county boards of elections. Ohio law allows boards of elections to receive ballots up to ten days after the election as long as they are postmarked by November 2nd. The United States Postal Service has committed to implementing the following protocols at the urging of Secretary LaRose:
- USPS will institute “all clear” processes at each sorting facility to ensure all election mail is processed each day.
- Staff will recheck collection bins each day to ensure late arriving ballots are retrieved.
- USPS will set up hand-to-hand delivery for election mail as it makes its way through processing on the Saturday prior to Election Day, from the board of elections to the distribution center.
- Postal facilities will track election mail deliveries to Ohio’s boards of elections
- Election mail will not be routed through the Detroit Regional Distribution Center. Instead it will be kept in-state.