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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

LaRose: No Additional Ballot Drop Boxes, No Mask Requirement For Election Day

Marcia McCoy drops her ballot into a box outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Tony Dejak / AP]
Marcia McCoy drops her ballot into a box outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Tony Dejak / AP]

Updated: 11:51 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020

With less than 12 weeks before the presidential election, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is sending out the rules all boards of elections must follow, including the requirement for only one ballot drop box for each county but no mandate for all voters to wear masks.

LaRose, a Republican and Ohio's top elections official, said voters will only have one drop box per county to deliver their absentee ballot. LaRose said he wanted legal direction from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on allowing more, but didn't get an answer in time.

"Just under three months to go until Election Day, I don't think it's time to change the way we've done things here in Ohio and add new drop boxes and questions about the validity of that and also to risk litigation," LaRose said.

Additional drop boxes and providing postage-paid absentee ballot requests have to be approved by the state legislature, he said.

Democratic lawmakers deny that claim, wanting LaRose to issue the directive himself.

“This choice to make voting more chaotic is confounding. If he has the authority to require one drop box, he has the authority to require multiple drop boxes," State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) said in a written statement. "We need our state government leaders to do their jobs.”

The Ohio Democratic Party in a Wednesday statement called LaRose's decision to not allow multiple drop boxes for ballots a "disgraceful" one and that it makes voting harder and less safe.

LaRose also said there will be in-person voting on Nov. 3, a date that cannot be changed by the governor or president. While masks wil be mandated for poll workers, masks are strongly encouraged but not required to vote. Voters who choose not to wear a mask will be given options, including voting outside or a curbside option, he said.

“Of course, masks are required for all poll workers, this is not optional," he said. "Walking into a polling place without wearing a mask is rude, it's bad manners, you should not be doing it. But if you choose to, we're going to let you cast your ballot and send you on your way."

He urged those voting by mail to request a ballot no later than Oct. 27, a week ahead of Election Day, even though Ohio’s laws allow requests up until the Saturday before the election, which LaRose called “entirely too late.”

He also said poll workers are desperately needed and the plan is to count as many of Ohio’s votes as possible that night.

“Speed is important. We all like to get those results quickly, but accuracy is even more important,” LaRose said. “That unofficial result on Election Night means just that and this year that unofficial result could change between then and three weeks later when we certify the final results. That doesn't mean something nefarious is happening.”

The deadline to register to vote in Ohio is Oct. 5. Early voting begins Oct. 6.