Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has formally submitted legislation to County Council asserting his right to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the county, a move that would be in direct contradiction to a recently-passed state law. FitzGerald, a Democrat who is running for governor, released the legislation — which he has deemed the “Cuyahoga County Voting Rights Law” — late Wednesday. The bill’s text says that despite any state laws to the contrary, the county will promote voter registration and promote “early voting and maximizing voter participation through voting by mail in Cuyahoga County, including, but not limited to, mailing applications to vote by mail, with postage-prepaid return envelopes, to all registered voters in Cuyahoga County.”
FitzGerald’s legislation is a response to Senate Bill 205, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich into law on Feb. 21. The state bill permits the Ohio Secretary of State to mail unsolicited absentee ballot applications, if the legislature appropriates the money, but only during general elections. Otherwise, all public officials and governments are prohibited from doing so.
County Councilwoman Sunny Simon, a Democrat, is a co-sponsor of FitzGerald’s legislation. Council will consider FitzGerald’s bill at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 11. Council President C. Ellen Connally, a Democrat, said Wednesday that she had not yet seen FitzGerald’s legislation and had not formed an opinion.