Ohio needs a clean election in November without any hiccups.
Its March primary turned into a debacle when in-person voting was called off just hours before it was to begin, then put back on, only to be halted again. The Ohio secretary of state followed this by announcing the election would be rescheduled in June, only to be scolded by the legislature that it was their call — not his — on when the election would be counted and they were picking April.
We are just 141 days away from the beginning of early voting in a General Election that involves a controversial president, bitter partisan politics, and one of the most challenging times in the history of our country.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has presented the legislature with proposals that his office believes will shore up concerns people may have about the upcoming election. It also puts the state and local election boards in a more flexible position should the unexpected happen — say another mail-in vote due to COVID-19.
But now comes a big hiccup: LaRose has yet to hear back from legislators.
Let’s be clear. The discussion and decision-making needs to begin within weeks, not months from now.
One thing that’s guaranteed leading up to Nov. 3 election is the procedures regarding mail-in votes will be heavily scrutinized in swing states like Ohio — be it from Democrats or Republicans.
Democrats will continue to push for ballots to be mailed to everyone on the voter rolls, not just those who seek absentee ballots. Five states are now doing this — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Such a system is to the advantage of Democrats as it puts more ballots in the hands of people who favor their beliefs but for various reasons do not vote. Republicans, meanwhile, argue that an all-mail system sees ballots being mailed to people whose names have been duplicated, people who have moved, are deceased or are felons who have not had their voting rights restored. In other words, it is sending an invitation for corruption.
There’s no way LaRose, a Republican, or the GOP-controlled legislature is going to allow such a system to infiltrate Ohio. People voting early in Ohio must provide specific identifiable information along with a signature to receive an absentee ballot. That’s a plus.
LaRose’s plan to improve the process makes it possible for people to visit a secured site on-line to request an absentee ballot. He also wants to move the deadline one week earlier for applying for an absentee ballot. This makes sense, based on what happened in the April primary. People had until the Saturday before the election to apply. By the time the election board received their request, sent the person an application, got the application back and checked the information, the election was over.
We also like the fact that LaRose wants to push more resources to the counties. He told The Lima News, “It comes from my time in the Army to be quite candid. One of the things that always annoyed me when I was in the Army is when the front-line grunts like me, we’re scraping to get by, and you’d go back to the headquarters where they’re living in air-conditioned buildings and they’ve got the newest, best and most equipment. That doesn’t work for me, the resources need to be out where the action is.”
We do have concerns should the region find it difficult to staff polling locations because of volunteers fearing the coronavirus. LaRose is entertaining the idea of a centralized location where safety measures could be better implemented. The loss of neighborhood polling stations could keep some from voting, however.
It is time for the legislature to get involved in the discussion. After all, LaRose can only recommend. The decisions are the legislatures to make.
No one has ever accused the 133rd Ohio General Assembly of working at breakneck speed. The 33 state senators and 99 members of the Ohio House of Representatives have been a group of Pluggers, slowly and methodically moving legislation through their chambers to the point it seems they’re stuck in first gear.
Now’s the time for legislators to start shifting.