Cuyahoga County may be mailing out absentee ballots to all voters this November, in spite of the Secretary of State’s directive not to. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on legislation that could change the way early voting happens in the next election.
County Executive Ed Fitzgerald says he will ask council on Monday to approve a measure to mail absentee voter applications to all Cuyahoga County residents, instead of just to people who specifically request one.
“We’ve had almost 50 percent of our votes cast in recent election by mail. So the people have already voted on this issue. And it’s been a money saver because what it means is that we don’t have to have as many poll workers. We don’t have to have as many polling places. It’s cut down on confusion and chaos the day of the elections. It’s been an unqualified success.”
In June, Ohio’s General Assembly passed a bill that reduces the number of early voting days, prohibits counties from mailing absentee ballots to all residents and removes the requirement that poll workers help voters find the correct precinct. The law has yet to go into effect, and last week Secretary of State John Husted sent out a directive prohibiting Boards of Election from mailing out any absentee ballots this November unless they’re requested. He says sending absentee ballots to everyone puts poor neighborhoods at a disadvantage, because their boards of election might not be able to afford mailing them out. But FitzGerald disagrees.
“Urban counties in particular are the ones who have been disenfranchised because it is a documented fact that there have been long lines at the polls where people lost their right to vote because they were waiting until 9, 10, 11 o’clock at night. It happened in 2004 and it made Ohio a laughing stock. If the legislature or Secretary Husted is concerned about poor counties not having this option, they should provide funding for them to do it.”
Fitzgerald, a Democrat, says he thinks the Republican Secretary of State and Republican-controlled legislature have another reason why they do not want absentee ballots being sent out.
“They don’t want some people to vote in counties like Cuyahoga County. There’s a partisan motivation here. There’s no reasonable public policy rational to try to stop this.”
FitzGerald says a Republican Cuyahoga council member has signed on as a co-sponsor of universal absentee ballots, and he has the support of other council members as well. But he says Husted probably won’t have the same reaction.
“We already know that he’s not happy about it, and there’s already been some talk about the legislature trying to change the law to prevent us from doing that in the future.”
Fitzgerald says he’s – quote – “pretty confident” that absentee ballots will be mailed to all voters in Cuyahoga County, at least for this November’s election.