Ahead of Nov. election, Ohio Sec. of State seeking help for county boards

Posted at 5:59 PM, May 11, 2020

HAMILTON, Ohio — After a troubled mail-in-only primary in Ohio last month, Sec. of State Frank LaRose wants new deadlines, free postage and more money to upgrade every county election board before November.

LaRose wants no part of problems that plagued April’s mail-in primary, and he’s found plenty of support.

Places like Butler County printed primary ballots by the thousands, sifted through piles on April 27 and finished vetting a vote count 13 days later.

Eric Corbin, assistant director of Butler County’s Board of Elections, says the primary’s model could cause problems for the November general election.

"We do not currently have the capacity to print as many ballots as possibly we may see this fall,” Corbin said.

It’s a problem the secretary of state saw in all 88 Ohio counties. WCPO media partner ProPublica’s Electionland requested documents on the state’s contingency plans for the general election and found memos from LaRose outlining change.

For starters, LaRose wants legislators to let voters request vote-by-mail ballots online, give them prepaid postage and change absentee request deadlines.

Right now, voters can get one as late as three days before an election. Last month, that brought 17,000 to Hamilton County on Election Day, almost as many as they got in February and March combined.

Butler County has three scanners, which is adequate for normal counts but not the 9,000 ballots turned in come election night.

It’s uncertain whether coronavirus will alter November elections. State leaders plan for in-person voting, but they know vote-by-mail could be their fate again.

That’s why LaRose also wants election board powers expanded to spread out polls for safety.

He has also asked for money to hire more staff and buy tools.

It would be welcome help for the Butler County Board of Elections, which Corbin said last month spent $50,000 on stamps alone.

"I see that as a no-brainer, because every county around the state is going to need more funds for hardware especially and then just supplies as well,” Corbin said.