Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued the following statement Monday:

“Ohio has a sound elections system, but today was another missed opportunity by the legislature to make a small change, without an impact on our state budget, that would yield a big improvement. Ohio voters have 216 hours to vote early in person from October 6 through November 2, 13 hours to vote on Election Day, or they can request an absentee ballot by mail and it will be sent to them beginning October 6. Make a plan. Don’t procrastinate. Make sure your voice is heard.”
 
LaRose also provided background on the request, including the following points.

• The Ohio Association of Election Officials supported Secretary LaRose’s plan as presented Monday to pay for postage for absentee ballots.

To read the letter of support, click here
 
• In the spring, the Ohio Legislature approved funding for postage on absentee ballots. House Bill 197, as passed by the Ohio General Assembly: “When the board delivers those ballots by mail, it shall prepay the return postage for the ballots.”

For more, go to: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-documents?id=GA133-HB-197.
 
• The Secretary of State refused a Democrat call to defund county boards of elections to pay for postage on absentee ballots

Ohio Democrats have stated that Secretary LaRose could utilize already authorized CARES dollars to pay for postage on absentee ballots. In response, please see the following segment of a recent letter to congressional Democrats:

“As a reminder, at the Controlling Board meeting on June 15, I sought and received approval to spend the $12.8 million that Congress sent to Ohio for elections related expenses through the CARES Act. 
 
[…]
 
“…almost all of the CARES dollars, nearly $11 million, were provided to our county boards of elections. Of the remaining CARES dollars, my office spent the vast majority – roughly $1.5 million – to send an absentee ballot request to every eligible voter. The minimal remaining unencumbered balance is not nearly sufficient to pay for statewide return postage and is needed to provide our county boards of elections a safety net for unforeseen emergency purchases to carry out safe, secure, and accurate elections this fall.

“Ohio’s county boards of elections desperately need and are already using the CARES dollars to hire additional staff, acquire necessary election infrastructure like mail processing equipment, and purchase personal protective equipment for their staff, poll workers, and voters. The suggestion that I take those resources away from the county boards of elections and use them to pay for the return postage on absentee ballots, especially when the resources exist within my office’s business services budget to do just that, simply does not make sense.”

The full letter may be read by clicking here

• Time is up: Secretary LaRose first asked the General Assembly to pay the postage on return ballots for this November’s Election on May 6, and initially went to the Controlling Board on Aug. 24.

With Monday’s decision, and because of the logistical deadlines of the USPS to obtain stamps and allow time for them to be applied to absentee ballots, this was the latest realistic opportunity for the legislature to act on this request. The United States Postal Service as well as a major contractor of county boards of elections have communicated to the Secretary’s office that three weeks were necessary to ensure ballots sent on Oct. 6 would have postage applied.