Pushing back against conspiracy theories and internet rumors, Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Wednesday took time to state the obvious: Ohioans can safely vote by mail for 28 days and Election Day will be held Nov. 3.
“It’s unfortunate but there is an incredible human capacity for inventiveness as it relates to elections conspiracies. People come up with all kinds of wazoo things and share them on the internet,” said LaRose, a Republican who is Ohio’s chief elections officer.
Without naming names, LaRose chastised elected officials who stoke conspiracy theories and pass on misinformation that undermines confidence in elections.
“We need to be sources of accurate information and truth. I think that sort of fanning the flames and engaging in hyperbole is irresponsible,” he said, adding “Listen, if you are making Ohioans fearful about elections, you’re kind of doing our foreign adversaries work for them.”
Ohio voters will not see additional secure drop box sites where they can submit their absentee ballots for the November election, LaRose said.
LaRose said he asked Attorney General Dave Yost for a legal opinion on adding boxes but didn’t hear back so he withdrew the opinion request.
LaRose expressed frustration with state lawmakers who went on summer break without taking action on election administration bills. He called the inaction a “big mistake” and “disappointing.”
LaRose said he asked lawmakers to make changes, such as adding drop box sites, permitting the state to pay return postage for absentee ballots, allowing for online applications for absentee ballots and changing the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot.
LaRose said he expects voter turnout to be the highest in state history and the rates for voting by mail could double to 40% to 50% of the votes cast.
LaRose’s message to Ohio voters? Don’t procrastinate. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 5. Early voting in-person or by mail begins Oct. 6.
Registered voters may apply for absentee ballots anytime between now and Oct. 31 but waiting until the deadline — just three days before Election Day — almost guarantees voters won’t get their ballots in time.
Between applying for and voting an absentee ballot, it can require three trips through the mail and the U.S. Postal Service is experiencing delays.
“The bottom line is: Don’t wait,” LaRose said.
It takes 35,000 Ohioans to run elections at nearly 4,000 polling places. Many poll workers are older or have underlying health issues that could put them at risk for COVID19 complications.
“It’s time for a new generation of Ohioans to step up and take on this civic responsibility,” he said.
Recruitment efforts include asking employers to give workers the day off to work the polls; extending professional education credits for lawyers, accountants and others if they work the polls; asking veterans to answer the call for a second duty; and expanding a program to let 17-year-old high school students serve as election officials.
LaRose said masks will be required for poll workers; voters will likely be under public health orders to wear facial coverings inside public buildings. Voters who refuse to wear masks will not be turned away, he said.
“Walking into a polling place without a mask is rude. It’s bad manners. You should not be doing it,” LaRose said.
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