State Representatives Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) today sent a letter to Secretary of State Frank LaRose again urging him to include return postage on absentee ballot application forms and the absentee ballots themselves. State law prohibits boards of elections, but not the secretary, from paying return postage. COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in Ohio since the foursome last urged LaRose to take this step to encourage mail voting on June 18.
See the letter below:
July 14, 2020
Dear Secretary LaRose,
Conditions have deteriorated since we last wrote to you on June 18. The safety of Ohio voters and all the professionals who run our elections is our top priority. With cases of COVID-19 rising, continued inadequate testing, protective gear shortages, and slowdowns at the Post Office, voters are fearful. We are in a crisis and the window to solve it is closing. You must act. In fact, at this point, you are the only one with the power to take action. Voters are at your mercy.
Hoping for the best is not a plan for a successful November election. We urged you on June 18 to pay return postage for voters’ absentee ballot applications as well as their absentee ballots. We believe that you have the authority as the state's top election official to implement this small opportunity so that electors face no unnecessary burden. This would be a major incentive for more people to adopt mail voting. As you know, we need many more people to use mail voting to relieve pressure on strained in-person early voting and Election Day voting, which are also crucial components of a successful election.
We have not heard a response from you and your recent directive and materials suggests voters will be on their own again to calculate and obtain postage during this pandemic. Instead of using existing federal funding and advocating for more federal funding to cover voters' return postage, you have issued an order to voters that reads “First Class Postage Required.”
Mr. Secretary, your record so far is troubling. The botched voter purge last fall has left us behind where we should be in voter registration numbers. Your rollout of the delayed primary election was a disaster and resulted in one of the lowest levels of voter participation in modern history. Trust in our elections took a hit. Election officials and poll workers were pushed to the brink, learning whether the election was on or off in the middle of the night or in some cases after polls were opened at 6:30am on St. Patrick’s Day and then immediately closed again. We cannot and will not do that to election officials, poll workers, and voters again, will we?
You have it within your authority to make mail voting a more trustworthy option for voters during this pandemic by paying the return postage on their absentee ballot applications and their absentee ballots. Please do not say that you need the legislature to make every decision for you like you did in the primary. You have the powers you need. Do everything in that power to remove this obstacle for voters and to encourage and ease mail voting for Ohioans. These last few weeks were another wakeup call. What will the weeks ahead bring? Let’s be prepared.
Paula Hicks-Hudson, State Representative, District 44; Chair, House Democratic Caucus COVID-19 Elections Working Group
Michele Lepore-Hagan, State Representative, District 58
Catherine D. Ingram, State Representative, District 32
Bride Rose Sweeney, State Representative, District 14