LaRose kicks off voter drive, Dems question why he’s not doing more

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose kicked off a statewide voter registration drive on Wednesday at the same time that he’s facing pressure from Democratic lawmakers who say he should unilaterally take steps to improve access to the ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LaRose and the Ohio Craft Brewers Association launched the registration drive dubbed “raise a glass to democracy.” Participating brewers will use a universal red-white-and-blue label design to urge drinkers to register to vote by Oct. 5 at VoteOhio.Gov so they can vote in the November election.

“We know our democracy thrives when every voice can be heard,” LaRose said. He added that the campaign is a natural fit because “political conversations tend to happen in brew pubs. People get together and they talk about the issues of the day.”

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This week State Sens. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, and Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, fired off a letter to LaRose, asking him to take action on five improvements they say he can do without legislative approval: set up online absentee ballot requesting, pay for return postage on absentee ballots, establish multiple locations for ballot drop boxes, run a paid voter education campaign, and implement automatic voter registration using BMV records.

The senators argued that due to the coronavirus crisis, many Ohio voters might be casting absentee ballots and they noted that too many Ohioans were unable to exercise their right to vote in the primary.

While he supports some of these initiatives, LaRose said, “If I could do it without legislative approval, I would have done it already.”

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State Reps. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, and Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, issued a statement saying the State Controlling Board already gave LaRose broad authority and Congress allocated money for holding elections during the pandemic, including paying for return postage for ballots and applications.

“But when it comes to helping voters by paying return postage, he claims his hands are tied,” Sweeney said. “While the global pandemic rages on, voters are growing more fearful and he’s playing ‘Mother may I’ with a GOP-led legislature that is uninterested in helping voters.”

Last month the Ohio House voted 61-34 along party lines to block LaRose’s office from prepaying return postage on absentee ballot applications or the ballots themselves. House Bill 680 would also shorten the time allowed for requesting an absentee ballot.

The bill, opposed by voting rights groups, is now pending in the Ohio Senate.

LaRose this week also issued a directive to county boards of election requiring that they use $13.6 million in federal money to strengthen cybersecurity, share information with federal and state partners, conduct criminal background checks on board employees, prepare for emergencies and provide accommodations for voters with disabilities.

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The League of Women voters welcomes the use of artificial intelligence and other security measures to help boards of election maintain the integrity of the voting process, said Susan Hesselgesser, executive director League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area.

“It is especially helpful to have the funding provided by the secretary of state to ensure this additional security will be in place throughout the State of Ohio,” Hesselgesser said. “With so many questions already surrounding the 2020 Election due to COVID-19 it is good news for voters to know this election will be secure regardless of how they decide to cast their vote.”

Jan Kelly, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said the county is always looking for “ways to shore up our cybersecurity and to continuously provide transparency while improving safe voter access to our website.”

She’s also pleased LaRose continued funding for hardware installed last year at county boards that can detect suspicious cyber-activity.

“The Montgomery County Board of Elections already has in place many of the security items outlined in the Directive and will be in compliance with further stipulated enhancements, improvements and security,” Kelly said. “We are in full election mode for the Presidential Election this November. We need help at the polls still. Please call 937-225-5656.”

How to register to vote: You can register online by visiting You can also download an application, print it, and mail it to your county board of elections.

When to register to vote: To vote in the Nov. 3 election, you must be registered by Oct. 5.

Who can register to vote: U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old on or before the next general election, and a resident of Ohio for at least 30 days before the election.

Should I check my voter registration?: Yes. You can do so here:

Documents needed to register online: Ohio driver's license or state ID with number; name; date of birth; address; last four digits of your Social Security number.

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