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The ballot drop box outside the Board of Elections in rural Athens County in southeastern Ohio.

Why, Ohio? Drop boxes kicked to the curb in another battleground.

There won't be any more ballot drop boxes set up in Ohio, assuring more hassle for as many as 700,000 people who might still cast their votes remotely and early in one of the essential presidential battlegrounds.

Voting rights groups announced Thursday they were giving up the legal battle they've been waging since the summer to get many more bins dispatched. They said it has become pointless to ask the Supreme Court to reverse an earlier appeals court ruling restricting the boxes to just one place in each of Ohio's 88 counties.

Drop boxes for completed absentee ballots have sprouted in plenty of places across the country that have never seen them before, a response by election officials to anxieties about voting in person and relying on the mail during the coronavirus pandemic. But as with so much else about election rules this fall, many of those initial accommodations (including for Ohio's primary) have run into stiff opposition from Republicans claiming the potential for fraud.

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Ohio will not provide envelopes with prepaid postage to voters for the 2020 general election.

Ohio won't join states covering postage for absentee voters

Ohio voters will have to provide their own postage if they opt to return their ballots by mail this fall.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose wanted to purchase $3 million worth of stamps with federal Covid-19 relief funding to put on envelopes for the record number of absentee ballots expected this fall. But a budgetary oversight board run by his fellow Republicans rejected that proposal Monday.

Voters in most states have to put their own 55-cent stamp on their mail ballots. But 17 states have permanent policies to provide postage-paid envelopes to absentee voters, and another three have decided to do the same for the November presidential election.

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In Ohio, absentee envelopes must be postmarked before Election Day or can be put in drop boxes until the polls close.

A first: Ohio's election returns will emphasize mailed vote not yet counted

Ohio will provide updates starting election night on the number of absentee ballots that haven't arrived to be counted. It's an apparent first, especially in a battleground state, that good-government experts are hailing as a smart way to help the public through the unique rhythm of this election.

The obvious benefit is to underscore that races too close to call by the end of Nov. 3 may stay that way for days — not because of anything fraudulent, as President Trump keeps asserting without evidence, but because big blocs of legitimate votes haven't been tabulated.

"This should be the rule everywhere," enthused Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine. "Great idea!"

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Connecticut is among the states significantly increasing the number of ballot drop boxes available to voters this election cycle.

The drop box rises as a compromise between the mail and the voting booth

There is no silver bullet that will save this pandemic-plagued election. When the president calls on his supporters to commit a felony by voting twice, and on the same day his attorney general fabricates a fake election fraud indictment, it's clear the climax of 2020 will be like no presidential race before.

But there's one solution that is so affordable, practical and achievable that it deserves special notice: ballot drop boxes.

For voters too afraid of the coronavirus to turn up at the polls, and worried the Postal Service will be too overwhelmed to deliver ballots on time, drop boxes — secure, locked structures that can be temporary or permanent — offer a relatively simple and confidence-boosting fix. Drop boxes are increasingly popular, may be installed at the discretion of local election officials, and will be used more widely than ever this year.

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