Columbus, OH – Today, leading Ohio Democratic elected officials held a press call to condemn Ohio Republicans for failing to secure safe and accessible elections this fall and calling on Secretary LaRose to take specific actions.
A recording of the call is available here. (Password: 6t&W626p)
New data shows over 1.5% of all votes (over 30,000 absentee and provisional ballots) cast in the spring primary were thrown out. Those tend to be disproportionately young people, seniors, Black people, and poor people who lack access to transportation and technology.
“We’re going to have a closely-watched, high-turnout, tight-margin election this fall, and that does not give me confidence that Ohioans are going to be able to have faith in the outcome,” said Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, identifying this as a civil rights issue. “Over the last two weeks, as White and Black Ohioans have been marching together outside on the Statehouse lawn for justice, the Republican majority was inside giving a masterclass in systemic racism.” He asked Republicans to “take their knee off the necks” of Ohioans and let them vote.
They called on the Secretary of State to maximize existing authority to ensure access in the November election. “We’re happy that the Secretary of State announced last night that he plans to use funding from the Controlling Board to send absentee ballot request forms to registered voters. We’re happy that he plans to continue something that has happened in Ohio ever since 2012. It is literally the least he could do,” said Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval.
They called on LaRose to:
- Put pre-paid postage on those ballot request forms using funding from the Controlling Board, failure of which constitutes a poll tax and which the Secretary of State has said himself in past letters to the legislature is likely unconstitutional.
- Create an online absentee ballot request form instead of making people use printers, ink, and stamps to make their request. This power is within his existing authority under ORC 3509. As Secretary of State, Jon Husted similarly used his own authority to create online voter registration updates.
- Implement automatic voter registration administratively, which he has said he supports in the past. This would counteract the likely fall-off in voter drives and motor vehicle registrations not occurring during the pandemic.
Columbus City Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown introduced a resolution yesterday to declare that the City of Columbus condemns these voter suppression efforts, noting Franklin County, the largest county in Ohio, accounts for about 11% of the state’s population but about 15% of all the absentee and provisional ballots thrown out. She shared several ideas for how cities and counties can remedy the problems the state has failed to solve. “None of this is an accident,” she said. “We know what this is. It is a recipe for long lines and voter disenfranchisement..If the state is not willing to lead on this matter, then local governments are going to have to step into the breach.”
State Representative Brigid Kelly condemned House Bill 680 that passed out of the committee on which she is the ranking member. It received no proponent testimony until the Secretary of State suddenly decided to support it even though it does not align with the stated proposals he spent weeks disseminating. “Now the Secretary says he is supporting a bill that does not align with his own priorities. This means the Republicans in the legislature or the Secretary of State are not working for the interests of Ohioans, an overwhelming majority of whom want to make it easier to vote early and by mail.”
This follows a May 11 press call when these Democrats came together with 20+ elected colleagues across the state to release a letter outlining policies to ensure a safe, accessible, and secure general election. “Unfortunately, it seems we were correct that Republican leaders in Ohio had no interest in ensuring every Ohioan is able to vote this fall,” said Portage County Commissioner Kathleen Clyde. “And unlike with the botched spring primary, there is no possibility of a re-do for the November election. This pandemic is far from over.”