Ohio Secretary of State LaRose looks to clarify positions on masks in polling places, drop boxes

Posted at 6:43 PM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 18:43:23-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose took time Thursday to clarify his positions on masks at polling places as well as his decision to not allow additional drop boxes for absentee ballots sticking with the one box per county that presently exist at the 88 local boards of election.

LaRose said his position on masks that he said had been misreported by some people.

“I don’t know whether this is intentional, sometimes people like to be sensational and try to fan the flames unfortunately but there have been some folks out there over the last 24 hours who have been saying the secretary of state is not requiring masks for voters. This is just not true,” LaRose said.

He pointed out that the state of Ohio requires masks for indoor gatherings like polling places so that would apply on Election Day so masks are legally required.

“But we are not the enforcement authorities for the mask mandate our elections officials are not there to enforce mask mandate it's just not our job."

Their job he said is to provide the setting for someone to vote, hopefully, while wearing a mask.

"I mean listen if somebody shows up shoeless and shirtless we're not going to turn them away either. It's common sense you shouldn't do that especially in November in Ohio but we're not going to prohibit you we're not going to disenfranchise you as a result of that."

If someone comes into a polling place on Election Day without a mask they will first be offered one and if they decline they will be asked if they want to vote curbside which would be outside. If they decline that option the goal of election officials will be simply to get the person processed and have them vote as soon as possible so as not to prolong their time indoors.

As for LaRose’s position on drop boxes for absentee ballots, it captured the attention of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Wednesday night.

"Now why is he saying that is not like in the law in Ohio,” Maddow said. “He's not telling you what the law is, he's just declaring that. The Republican Secretary of State in Ohio just decreeing that today on the basis of nobody knows what."

What LaRose said Thursday is the fact that he believes that any decision on drop boxes like any decision on online absentee ballot applications or postage-paid ballots would have to come from the legislature, not his office.

"Would I like the state legislature to weigh in on the addition of more drop boxes for county boards of elections I absolutely would. This is something that I think would be a great convenience going forward in the future but this is not something that we should do again in the 53 days before early voting begins in Ohio,” he said.