COLUMBUS, Ohio — 2020 was a record breaking election—most votes cast, highest turnout—but the record that stands out to Secretary of State Frank LaRose is that nearly 59% of people voted early in person or by mail.
"I think that with 59% of the votes cast through early and absentee voting you can no longer call that an alternative and even when the pandemic is over I believe that large numbers of Ohioans will continue to take advantage of the convenience of voting by mail and the convenience of early voting,” LaRose said. “And so it's time that we in state government respond to that and make some modernizations to the way that we run early and absentee voting to make it more convenient for Ohioans.”
While Ohio's election went relatively smoothly, the one glaring issue was the one that came with the record turnout and that was the long lines at county boards of elections for early voting.
"It's time that we allow more than one early voting location per county. I mean the fact that we restrict it to one early voting location per county is just not consistent with the way that people are choosing to vote these days,” LaRose said. “So it's time that we allow the county boards of elections to have more flexibility. That's something that I've been talking about again for a couple of years.”
That will likely have to wait for the next legislative term in January.
One bill that could be moved on this week in the Senate though is one that would allow voters to request an absentee ballot online.
"Right now you've got to print the piece of paper to mail it to your Board of Elections to request your absentee ballot. I proposed in the state legislature five years ago that we put that online. We can do it securely, it's time that we make that step forward,” LaRose said.
“There's also a bill that we're pushing right now in the House of Representatives that would bring greater oversight to the vendors that support our Boards of Elections,” LaRose said. “The Boards of Election do this great bi-partisan work but many times they rely on outside vendors for a variety of different things and the time has come that we provide more scrutiny and oversight to those vendors especially as it relates to things like the voter registration data bases that each county maintains.
“We learned last year that because of errors that vendors had made that there were mistakes in the voter registration database, That's completely unacceptable and I think it's time that we bring some more oversight to that process and Senate Bill 194 does that and it has again bipartisan support and it's pending in the Ohio House of Representatives,” he said.
Some of these are steps, like adding additional drop boxes, that the courts have ruled LaRose can take on his own—something he told me he'd prefer not to do.
“The best place to make changes as it relates to elections are at the state capitol, at the state house where you can work to get a bipartisan consensus."