Ohio’s top elections chief is banning county officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications ahead of Election Day. The move by Secretary of State Jon Husted Monday comes after several county boards of elections recently had tied votes on whether to send out applications.
A spokesman for the Republican says he wanted to provide clear guidance to boards, and issued the directive to the state’s 88 counties in order to have uniformity. Boards in Ohio’s larger, urban counties — those that tend to vote more Democratic — have typically sent unsolicited absentee ballot applications to registered voters. Some also pay the return postage. Ohio’s new elections overhaul bans the practice, though the law faces a potential ballot repeal. It has not yet gone into effect.
Cuyahoga County Commissioner Ed FitzGerald expressed his disappointment with the directive Monday. The commissioner said the Vote by Mail Program made voting easier and reduced lines at polls.
“This is taking a step backwards in terms of ballot access,” FitzGerald said of the secretary of state’s directive. “We should be doing what we can to make voting easier in Ohio.”
FitzGerald said he is examining Cuyahoga County’s options in light of Monday’s ruling.