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Ohio judge lifts 'arbitrary' restrictions on ballot drop boxes

16 Sep 2020 / 00:36 H.

    By Andy Sullivan

    WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - A state judge in Ohio on Tuesday ruled that election officials can set up multiple drop boxes per county for voters to return absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election, writing that a limit of one per county is "arbitrary and unreasonable."

    The decision is a victory for the state Democratic Party, which has pushed to allow local election officials to set up multiple drop boxes to accommodate voters who do not want to return absentee ballots by mail.

    Drop boxes have become a partisan flash point in the presidential election. Democrats have promoted them as a reasonable and reliable option for voters unnerved by the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. Postal Service delivery problems.

    Republican officials and President Donald Trump's campaign have sought to limit them in many states, arguing without evidence that the receptacles could enable voting fraud.

    Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, said in August that officials can set up only one drop box in each of the state's 88 counties, saying he did not have the authority to approve more.

    That left the 864,000 registered voters of Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland and is a Democratic stronghold, with the same number of drop boxes as the 8,400 registered voters of Republican Vinton County.

    Opinion polls show Trump holding a narrow lead over Democratic rival Joe Biden in Ohio.

    Ohio Judge Richard Frye ruled that local authorities can set up more drop boxes if they wish, saying LaRose's restrictions were not reasonable. "Wholly arbitrary rules are entitled to no deference," he wrote.

    LaRose's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)

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