Ohio elections boards must email or call absentee voters who don’t provide identifying information
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued the directive Monday as part of his "Ready for November" plan for safe elections this fall
Akron Beacon Journal
By Rick Rouan
Ohio elections officials must email or call voters who haven't provided all the necessary information on absentee ballots for the general election in November, not just send them a notice in the mail.
As the state prepares for a surge in voting by mail because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive Monday outlining that and other steps that the local boards of elections must take for the fall election.
The secretary of state's office will send absentee ballot applications to about 8 million registered voters in the state, and LaRose has said Ohio could see an unprecedented number of votes cast by mail.
The state conducted its primary almost entirely through the mail after polls were shut down hours before they were set to open March 17 to prevent the virus from spreading. Instead, the primary ran through late April, with most voters required to cast absentee ballots.
State lawmakers so far have preserved in-person voting, with LaRose's support, but lingering fears about spreading the coronavirus are expected to drive more Ohioans to cast absentee ballots.
Traditionally, local boards of elections send a standard form in the mail to absentee voters who do not provide all of the required identification information during a "cure period." But LaRose's directive instructs them to also use any email addresses or phone numbers in addition to the form to contact those voters and ensure their ballots are counted.
LaRose's "Ready for November" directive (which can be reviewed in full below) also requires boards of elections to have paper backups for electronic poll books that are used to check-in voters casting in-person ballots on Election Day and lays out how local boards should spend their portion of nearly $13 million in federal funding earmarked for elections administration.
About 87% of that funding will be distributed to local boards of elections, according to LaRose's office. They are to use it to buy more equipment to help mail, process and count absentee ballots and to hire more staff members for the high-turnout election.
Federal money must be used to print materials about social distancing protocols and public communications about changing voting locations, voting options and other information about the election.
Funding also will be provided to purchase personal protective equipment for poll workers and voters, according to a press release.
Ohio's 88 county boards of elections must file a plan for how they will spend their federal funding with the state by July 27.
Local boards of elections are required under the directive to survey poll workers who have served in the past three years or intended to serve in the primary by Aug. 1 as they marshal their forces for the general election.
Poll worker shortages played into the decision to close the polls in the primary. Local boards of elections feared that they could face the prospect of opening the polls without enough workers to staff voting locations.
The directive also sets thresholds for local boards of elections to print enough ballots to accommodate high voter turnout. LaRose has said the state could see record turnout even under pandemic conditions.
It is unacceptable for a board to run out of ballots for an election at any time during the absentee voting period or on Election Day," the directive reads. "It is the board of elections', director's, and deputy director's duty and responsibility to determine ballot quantities and machine allocation."
Review Ohio's "Ready for November" plan for safe elections this fall:
(c)2020 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)