COLUMBUS— State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) responded to today’s refusal by the state Controlling Board to grant the Secretary of State’s last minute request for additional authority to pay return postage for absentee ballots. Sec. LaRose recently mailed absentee ballot applications to registered Ohio voters without including return postage.
“The need for safe and secure elections exists in every election cycle, but the needs are different and greater during a pandemic,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “Secretary LaRose has the ability to pay return postage on absentee ballots, keeping Ohioans safe if they wish to vote from home. Securing our election this November requires him to take action now. Anything short of that is voter suppression.”
Alongside colleagues in the Election Work Group, Rep. Lepore-Hagan and House Democrats have been urging LaRose for months to use the existing authority of his office to pay return postage for both ballot applications and absentee ballots.
“People shouldn't have to pay to vote. That might be straightforward to most Ohioans, but it isn’t to the Republican supermajority in Columbus. While I’m deeply disappointed in today’s party-line decision, we saw this coming a mile away,” said Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland). “Ohio has a Secretary of State who talks a good game to the press about doing the right thing, but who often seems to find an excuse not to do it. Either he made up yet another excuse not to make voting easier, or he utterly failed to convince a few of his fellow Republicans not to run the typical GOP voter suppression playbook. In any case, he should pay return postage for voters' ballots right now using his existing authority without scapegoating the state Controlling Board.”
TIMELINE: Events concerning return postage and the state Controlling Board:
June 15 – Controlling Board gave Sec. LaRose broad approval to spend federal CARES Act funds on Ohio election amid pandemic.
June 18 – Democrats call for Sec. LaRose to pay return postage for applications and ballots.
July 21 – Sec. LaRose testified in support of House Bill 680, a bill to prohibit him from paying return postage for applications and ballots.
Week of Aug. 12 - Democrats made multiple demands of Sec. LaRose to stop playing politics and provide voters with return postage for their absentee materials.
Aug. 18 – Sec. LaRose submitted a late request to the Controlling Board for a second approval to pay for return postage – for ballots only, not applications.
Aug. 24 – The Controlling Board declined to hear Sec. LaRose’s request.
Sept. 1 – Sec. LaRose continued the longstanding practice of mailing ballot application forms to registered voters – he did not include return postage.
Sept. 8 – The Controlling Board added Sec. LaRose’s request to its agenda for Sept. 14.
Sept. 14 – The Controlling Board denied additional approval to pay return postage for Ohioans’ absentee ballots.
Sept. 15 - Sec. LaRose should implement paid return postage immediately using existing authority of his office.