According to a minority caucus blog on the Ohio House website, on Sept. 14, the Ohio State Controlling Board decided that the state will not pay for the postage required to mail absentee ballots for the November general election. Instead, absentee voters will have to pay for the stamps themselves. This decision comes less than two months before the presidential election and has been highly anticipated by Ohio absentee voters.
As reported by the Fulcrum, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose proposed an allocation of $3 million for stamps for Ohio absentee ballots, which would have used a portion of federally granted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funds; LaRose cited the safety concerns surrounding in-person voting and the increase in absentee ballots as reasons for the legislation. Of the seven members on the Controlling Board, four Republican representatives on the board rejected the proposal, while two Democrats were in favor and one member, the state budget director appointed by the Governor, did not vote.
This decision is the result of a three-month-long saga. According to the minority caucus blog, LaRose was first granted approval in June to put federal CARES Act funds towards minimizing the public health risks of this election presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ohio House Democrats called upon him to allocate funds toward absentee ballot return postage. LaRose did not favor this use of funds and, in July, testified in support of a bill that would not allow him to use the CARES money for absentee ballot return postage.
On Aug. 18, however, LaRose presented a request to the Controlling Board asking for approval to pay for absentee ballot return postage. According to the minority caucus blog, the Controlling Board declined to hear LaRose’s proposal until Sept. 14, when they officially rejected it. This was Ohio’s last chance at obtaining approval from the Controlling Board for the absentee ballot return postage in time for the November election.
Ohio Rep. Brigid Kelly expressed her disappointment in the Controlling Board’s decision. “We need to make it easier for Ohioans to vote, not more difficult,” she said. “This means that when we have the ability to pay for return postage, we should do it.”
Other Ohio House Democrats joined Kelly in her disapproval of the Controlling Board’s choice, expressing concerns that this decision would hinder Ohioans from exercising their right to vote in the November election.