COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A judge ordered Ohio’s elections chief on Friday to allow voters to apply for absentee ballots for the November presidential election by electronic means, including by fax or email, siding with Democrats in a legal dispute certain to be quickly appealed in the pivotal swing state.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Stephen McIntosh’s decision to grant the Ohio Democratic Party’s motion was heralded by the party as a victory for voter access, while Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose responded with alarm.
“Today’s ruling rolls out the red carpet to Russian hackers — painting a giant bullseye on the back of our election system and upending the significant progress Ohio has made on elections cybersecurity,” he said in a written statement. “It injects chaos into what was already a challenging election for our county boards of elections, and we are confident that a higher court will correct this quickly.”
LaRose’s office recently mailed 7.8 million absentee ballot applications to registered voters across the state. The ruling, if it stands, will allow people to fax those to their county election board or to send them in as an email attachment.
State Democratic Chairman David Pepper said he was pleased the court agreed with the party’s argument that Ohio law permits such submissions.
“This is a big win for Ohio voters, providing a fast, easy and modern way for voters to request an absentee ballot,” he said.
Pepper questioned why LaRose would appeal the decision after lobbying for years for online submission of the applications.