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Ohio, GOP defend limit on ballot drop boxes to 1 per county

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio and Republican groups including the Trump campaign are fighting to uphold a GOP election chief's directive limiting ballot drop boxes in the presidential battleground to one per county.

They told a state appellate court in filings Monday that a county judge overstepped his authority when he blocked it. The Ohio Republican Party said Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye “relied on anecdotal evidence and ‘sound public policy,’” when the case “presents a pure question of law.”

In the crosshairs of the legal battle is Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose's Aug. 12 directive restricting counties to one drop box each, located at the county board of elections. Cuyahoga County, home to populous and Democratic-leaning Cleveland, said it would like to allow ballots to be collected at six public libraries last week, but that action has been halted because of the lawsuit.

LaRose argued that the number of drop boxes per county must be uniform to be fair, and that lawmakers had made clear in a law passed this spring that ballots had to be mailed or personally delivered to county board directors.

The cities of Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus have jumped into the lawsuit brought by the Ohio Democratic Party, as has the labor umbrella group AFL-CIO. Siding with LaRose in the case are the state GOP, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Trump for America campaign.

They have asked the state's 10th District Court of Appeals to toss Frye's Tuesday decision, declaring the directive arbitrary and unreasonable, particularly given the coronavirus pandemic. Frye blocked the directive Wednesday.

Interest in access to ballot drop boxes has increased nationally since spring primary voting was hampered by virus concerns, the U.S. Postal Service has faced cutbacks and Trump has urged against mail-in voting, alleging without evidence that the process is rigged. It is often the more urban, Democrat-heavy counties that lean toward drop boxes.

Oral arguments in the Ohio case are scheduled for Friday.

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