Ohioans choosing to vote by mail this year will likely have to buy their own stamps to mail their ballots back, after a GOP-run state budget board blocked the secretary of state's plan to cover the cost of postage.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose came up short on Monday, after members of his own party on the Ohio Controlling Board voted 4-2 to deny his request for $3 million to cover postage costs for ballots this fall.
The Ohio Controlling Board is a panel of lawmakers that controls changes to the state budget. LaRose was asking to use an additional $3 million from his office's existing funds to buy return postage for mail-in ballots. Republicans voting against the request argued this wasn't a decision for the Ohio Controlling Board to make, and some questioned if LaRose even has the authority to cover the cost of return postage in the first place.
"Ohio has a sound elections system, but today was another missed opportunity by the legislature to make a small change, without an impact on our state budget, that would yield a big improvement," Rose said in a statement after the decision.
Others said there simply wasn't enough time before Election Day to make the change.
"I'm highly reluctant to change the rules of any election, let alone a presidential election, at the 11th hour," said Ohio state Rep. Scott Oeslager.
LaRose has been pushing state officials on prepaid return postage for ballots since the spring. He also noted on Monday that ballots have not yet been sent out to voters.
His support for prepaid postage puts him out of step with the Republican Party -- it's been the Democrats who have filed lawsuits across the country trying to secure prepaid postage for mail-in ballots, a practice that exists in more than a dozen states. Ohio Democrats have urged LaRose to use federal stimulus funding to pay for postage, but LaRose has said that money is already being used for other election needs.
The now-defeated proposal had strong bipartisan support from election officials in the Buckeye State.
The state legislature approved prepaid return postage for the late April primary, which was done fully by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. LaRose has argued that Ohio is still dealing with many of the same factors that led to that decision in the spring -- and will likely still be dealing with them as people start voting this fall.
In fact, due to pandemic protocols, the Ohio Controlling Board meeting on Monday was held on Zoom. According to The Ohio Capitol Journal, one of the Republican board members who voted against prepaid postage announced that he tested positive for Covid-19 less than one hour before the meeting began.