Local senator proposes bill to ban ballot drop boxes

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, proposed a bill Wednesday that would ban the use of ballot boxes at boards of election throughout the state.

Drop boxes were formally legalized in Ohio in a 2022 election reform law that, among other things, regulated that there could only be one drop box per county that must be under 24/7 surveillance. However, Ohio’s use of drop boxes goes back further than that, as the practice has been allowed under the Secretary of State for at least several years prior.

Antani, a first-term state senator who represents the bulk of Dayton in the 6th Senate District, said in a press release that the formal legalization of drop boxes was a “disastrous policy.”

“I strongly opposed drop boxes then, as I do now, and so I’m seeking to undo this. Drop boxes will lead to severely illegal ballot harvesting, it makes our elections less secure and it leaves lots and lots of ballots in an unsecured receptacle that could be tampered with,” Antani said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News. “I think this will fill our elections with election integrity and so it’s something we have to do.”

The Dayton Daily News asked Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Jeff Rezabek — also a Republican — if he agreed with Antani’s concerns about drop boxes, to which he said, “No.”

“We have not seen any of that in Montgomery County and I’m generally not aware that it’s an issue throughout the state of Ohio,” Rezabek said, noting that Ohioans are freely able to request drop box surveillance recordings, which are public record.

For security reasons, Rezabek was unable to say how often an election official clears out the drop box in front of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, but he was able to disclose that it is cleared out on a regular basis.

Antani has long criticized the state’s drop box policy, despite voting for the law that formally legalized the practice. After his vote, Antani released a statement that expressed support for the bill’s Voter ID regulations and strong opposition to drop boxes, asserting that “Drop boxes result in voter fraud and instead of allowing them, we should ban them.”

On Wednesday, Antani was asked if his proposal is reactive to any evidence of drop box tampering in Ohio since legalization.

“I think there’s this narrative that in order for a law to be done, it has to be in reaction to some tragedy — that’s just not true. That’s not how we make laws and people who only make laws in those scenarios are doing it for the wrong reason,” Antani said. “What we know is that drop boxes make it easier to ballot harvest, and we know that they are unsecured receptacles that could easily be tampered with and so, in order to make our elections more filled with integrity, I believe we need to ban drop boxes.”

Antani told the Dayton Daily News that he feels there also needs to be a conversation about mail-in voting. “I think in-person is much, much more secure,” Antani said.

On X (formerly Twitter), state Rep. Willis Blackshear, Jr., D-Dayton, described the proposal as “an appalling attempt at voter suppression.”

“Elected leaders should make voting more accessible, not create more barriers,” wrote Blackshear, who has announced his candidacy for Antani’s Senate seat in 2024.

Antani called the contention that his proposal creates barriers “frankly ludicrous.”

“Right now we have early-in person voting, right now we do have mail-in voting, so to think that you need an outdoor, un-secure receptacle in order to collect ballots when somebody can just simply walk inside the board of elections and hand their ballot to an elections worker who can secure that ballot, it’s just ludicrous,” Antani said.

Rezabek described drop boxes as “just an additional opportunity for voters to have a way in which to deposit their ballot safely and securely.”

Antani’s proposed legislation will have no impact on the ongoing Nov. 7 election. Voters can continue using the drop box at their local board of elections through the close of polls on Election Day.

Note: This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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