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Voter advocates join Ohio legal cry to expand drop boxes

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A coalition of voting rights groups is joining Ohio Democrats in suing the state’s election chief, seeking to force an expansion of ballot drop boxes ahead of the November election.

The complaint filed late Wednesday challenges Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s order limiting drop boxes to one per county as unconstitutional. The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio arms of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and NAACP and seven individual voters asked the court to rescind the Aug. 12 order and to adopt a “reasonable” drop box-to-voter ratio for each county. Democrats’ suit, filed Tuesday, disputes LaRose’s claim that state law prohibits him from adding more boxes.

Access to ballot drop boxes has become an urgent matter for Democrats nationally, as in-person voting options are threatened by the deadly coronavirus and mail-in voting’s integrity has been questioned amid cutbacks at the U.S. Postal Service.

LaRose has responded to criticism by saying proposing an “innovative solution” for paying ballot postage through his office’s budget would help make “every mail box a drop box for millions of Ohioans, making it easier than ever to cast a ballot in a general election.”

But the state Controlling Board sidelined LaRose’s request for $3 million to pay for the postage on Monday. His office says it will resubmit the request for the board’s Sept. 14 meeting, which would still give ample time to attach postage to Ohio ballots.