by Todd Defeo
State Democrats are again blasting Secretary of State Frank LaRose after the state Controlling Board did not hear his request for authority to pay return postage for absentee ballots.
Last week, LaRose said he wanted to use up to $3 million to pay for postage for absentee ballots cast in November’s election.
In May, following the much-maligned primary, LaRose made several recommendations to state lawmakers, including allocating general revenue fund (GRF) dollars to cover the cost of postage for absentee ballots. However, state lawmakers did not act on the request.
“This is really breeding confusion. Don’t throw out promises that you can’t keep,” state Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, said in a statement. “That is exactly the kind of thing that created so much confusion during our primary.
“LaRose is weeks away from sending ballot applications to Ohio voters without the return postage that should be included,” Hicks-Hudson added. “I don’t know if we are where we are because of GOP infighting or GOP collusion but, either way, it’s everyday Ohioans who stand to lose.”
LaRose plans to come back to the Controlling Board in mid-September. A spokesperson for LaRose did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In recent weeks, Democrats and Republicans in Ohio have sparred about absentee ballots and voting by mail, mirroring their respective national counterparts’ talking points.
Democrats previously said LaRose already has Controlling Board approval to use federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for postage.
In 2016, 1.2 million Ohioans cast an absentee ballot by mail, and LaRose has told boards of elections across the Buckeye State they should expect that number to double this year. Despite asking for $3 million, election officials do not think the total cost for postage will exceed $2 million.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Thomas West, D-Canton, sent a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine asking him to consider deploying members of the Ohio National Guard to work as poll workers if local boards of elections have difficulty recruiting workers.
“For those Ohioans who choose to vote in-person on Election Day, it is absolutely crucial that we ensure our polling locations are adequately staffed. We must consider all options at our disposal to ensure that happens,” West said in a news release. “As we continue to monitor poll worker staffing levels for our counties, I hope the governor will take this suggestion under careful consideration.”
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Todd Defeo is a contributor to The Center Square.