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Board remains opposed to ballot drop boxes

Warren County will not be entertaining mail-in ballot drop boxes prior to next month’s election.

The drop boxes — places where people can return ballots at places other than the county election’s office — has been a key issue in multiple pieces of litigation in both state and federal court.

For the primary, the county had a box placed just inside the Fifth Ave. entrance at the Warren County Courthouse.

That box will not be returning.

The issue was brought to the Board of Elections on Wednesday by Jane Dunshie, who presented a letter from the League of Women Voters.

“The position of the board has been against drop boxes,” Solicitor Nathaniel Schmidt said, as the boxes have “become a major source of inquiry by the Trump campaign.”

He said a nearby county submitted video in response to a discovery request that resulted in their elections director having to participate in a deposition in one of the lawsuits.

“It seems to be moving to where it is permitted but not required,” Schmidt said of the drop boxes. “My advice, I foresee continuing litigation over this election even past the conduct of the election. My recommendation has been to not implement drop boxes if not necessary.”

The county commissioners are the board during non-commissioner election years. Commissioner Ben Kafferlin cited the short distance from the Fifth Ave. entrance to the elections office as well as the fact that voters can utilize the U.S. Postal Service, confirming receipt of their ballot by contacting elections staff.

“So I think we’re covered on all bases from that perspective,” he said.

Dunshie said this is a “fork in the road” and encouraged the commissioners to consider the drop box as a means of being “supportive of voters.”

She cited the presence of sheriff’s deputies at the single point entry as a reason in support.

Kafferlin said the board trusts the deputies but noted that they are not trained election staff.

He agreed that this situation is a fork in the road with making something easier for the voter “unless the other alternative is election security.

“The issue is walking an additional 300 feet in the building versus the potential of compromising (our) election system.”

Elections Director Lisa Rivett said the benefit of people coming to her office is that staff can confirm the presence of the secrecy envelope and the completion of the voter declaration.

“Some of this has to go back to the voter,” she said, to follow the instructions.

She said she’s met those with mobility issues at the entrance to the courthouse and is also sending back — with explanation — any ballots received that don’t have the voter declaration completed correctly.

“We need to physically ask those questions,” she said. “We’re just trying to be really proactive so everyone’s vote gets counted.”

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