by J.D. Davidson
It’s a new week and with it comes another turn surrounding ballot drop boxes in Ohio.
After a federal district judge Friday sharply criticized Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and ordered multiple drop boxes at multiple locations be allowed, a federal appeals court stayed that order.
A three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals split 2-1 on its decision to revert ballot box rules back to a LaRose directive last week that said multiple boxes would be allowed but only on or near boards of election property.
“In all, we conclude that Ohio’s restrictions are reasonable and non-discriminatory and thus subject to rational basis review,” the court wrote in its opinion.
The court said not granting a stay could harm the state’s election process, while granting the stay would be unlikely to harm anyone. Also, it said the stay was in the public interest.
“All of LaRose’s reason for implementing and enforcing Directive 2020-16 concern important state interests,” the court wrote. “And these state interests, taken together, justify the burden that it places on this one method of voting in Ohio. Accordingly, we conclude that LaRose has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on appeal.”
On Friday, federal judge Dan Polster chastised LaRose for not allowing multiple boxes at multiple locations.
“The Secretary is continuing to restrict boards from implementing off-site collection, and he appears to be doing so in an arbitrary manner. The Court has given the Secretary every opportunity to address the problem … and he has been unwilling or unable to do so,” Polster wrote.
“All of this conduct flies in the face of Defendant LaRose’s previous statements that he would like to authorize multiple drop boxes in every county if the law allows it. Which the law does,” the judge wrote.
On Oct. 5, LaRose issued his directive that said election officials are able to collect absentee ballots outside of county boards of election offices. State officials said that directive meant outside of the building, on or near office property, rather than at public libraries where Cleveland election officials had wanted.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.