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Republican senator proposes getting rid of ballot drop boxes in all 88 Ohio counties

Ohio voted sticker
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio voted sticker

A Republican state lawmaker wants to block county boards of elections from collecting absentee ballots through outdoor drop boxes, introducing a bill Wednesday afternoon that would ban the practice statewide.

Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) said he is proposing getting rid of the drop boxes altogether in future elections, citing his concerns with their security. Under the proposal, voters would still be able to hand their absentee ballots directly to election workers.

"These are incredibly insecure, as opposed to a board of elections, which is an indoor facility that has security and locks and is not accessible to anyone," Antani said in an interview.

Ballot drop boxes have been a target of conservative critics, many of whom have also spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, which falsely claim former President Donald Trump won.

An Associated Press survey of elections officials from across the U.S. showed there were no widespread problems related to drop boxes in the 2020 presidential election—including no reported fraud, vandalism or theft that could have affected the results of that vote.

A state law that went into effect in April permits one drop box per county—on board of elections property, under 24/7 video surveillance and with strict limits on who can handle the ballots collected via the drop box. Antani questioned how frequently the cameras themselves are being monitored.

The secure ballot drop boxes, often made of metal or steel, became more common statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voting rights organizations in Ohio have fought to get counties more of them, although that was rebuffed by both Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the Ohio legislature.

A broader election overhaul law signed in early January set the current standards, including limiting to one per county, regardless of the county's population size. When Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law, he also issued a statement regarding further changes to Ohio voting and election statutes.

"I believe with the enactment of the new election integrity provisions ... this matter should be settled, and I do not expect to see any further statutory changes to Ohio voting procedures while I am governor," DeWine wrote in the Jan. 6 statement.

Antani's bill has yet to receive a committee assignment.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.