LaRose Appealing Order to Permit More Than One Ballot Drop Box Per County

September 17, 2020by Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (TNS)
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. (Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Franklin County judge issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday permitting the installation of more than one ballot drop box per county ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

In handing down his decision, however, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye stayed his order pending a promised appeal from Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose within 24 hours.

LaRose asked Frye shortly before he granted the injunction to quickly rule so he can appeal the case, saying he continues to believe more than one ballot drop box per county is not legal.

Frye, a Democrat, declined at first on Tuesday to issue a preliminary injunction sought by the Ohio Democratic Party, finding it unnecessary given LaRose’s prior statements.

The judge noted that LaRose had said publicly that he supports additional ballot drop boxes if they are legal, which Frye believes his ruling established.

Frye ordered LaRose to respond to whether he would comply with his ruling by 3 p.m. Wednesday after LaRose’s office indicated he would appeal Frye’s ruling.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, LaRose spokeswoman Maggie Sheehan said the secretary of state in his response urged Frye to immediately rule on the injunction to allow LaRose to appeal it to the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus.

She also said: “Yesterday’s ruling has enormous implications for holding a secure and fair election in Ohio and assuring voters of the integrity of its result. For those reasons, Ohioans deserve a full and immediate review of the ruling by the appellate courts.”

In his ruling on the injunction, Frye wrote: “There is no evidence that a preliminary injunction will harm defendant Ohio Republican Party. Voters of both major parties (and independent voters) all will benefit from easier and safer access to absentee ballot drop box locations or other measures that individual boards may adopt allowing voters to securely deliver their ballots without using the U.S. Postal Service.”

The Ohio Democratic Party contended in its lawsuit that no law prevents county boards of elections from offering more than one ballot drop box to deposit absentee ballots, despite LaRose’s prior directive prohibiting multiple boxes.

It makes little sense, Democrats say, to only have one drop box in major urban counties with large populations. Permitting only one drop box will stifle voter participation, the party argued.

State Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper blasted LaRose for “getting the decision he wanted and is now appealing.”

“LaRose told folks for weeks, and we provided evidence in court, that he simply wanted a judicial order. He assured people he wanted multiple drop boxes. It’s disappointing, to stay the least, he is going back on that assurance,” Pepper said. “This is simply more games to avoid something that is common sense.”

The Ohio Republican Party blasted Frye and the Ohio Democratic Party following Tuesday’s ruling, suggesting they colluded on a ruling that was the product of political partisanship rather than the law.

The Democrats asked Frye on Wednesday to order the Republicans to show cause why they should not be held in indirect contempt of court for falsely alleging ethical misconduct against the judge and Democratic officials.

In a limited response, the GOP said it had deleted its tweets concerning Frye’s ruling and had removed its statement denouncing him and his ruling from the internet.

In a highly unusual statement, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, rebuked her party for questioning Frye’s conduct in a politically charged statement released Tuesday.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms both the statement released by the Ohio Republican Party,” she wrote late Wednesday afternoon.

“Every one of Ohio’s 722 judges, 800 magistrates, and numerous active-retired judges should be greatly concerned and voice their dismay at the irresponsible Republican Party allegation that politics controlled the judge’s decision. This is a blatant and unfounded attack on the independence of the Ohio judiciary.

“Contrary to the statements in this, disgraceful, deceitful piece, judges don’t decide cases based on partisanship.”

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©2020 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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