Ohio court weighs allowing electronic ballot applications

Ohio

The Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals is weighing whether to uphold a trial judge’s Sept. 11 decision blocking a directive issued by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose that said the applications could be submitted only in person or by mail.

Posted: Sep 24, 2020 1:17 PM
Updated: Sep 24, 2020 4:23 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Attorneys on both sides faced pointed pushback from a panel of appellate judges Thursday as the legal fight over whether Ohio should allow electronic absentee ballot applications continued.

The Ohio’s 10th District Court of Appeals is weighing whether to uphold a trial judge’s Sept. 11 decision blocking a directive issued by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose that said the applications could be submitted only in person or by mail.

The three-judge panel convened virtually to hear oral arguments, which Judge William Klatt described as “very enlightening.” A decision will be made as quickly as possible, he said.

Many of the questions centered on Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Stephen McIntosh’s decision blocking LaRose’s directive and ordering him to allow voters to apply for absentee ballots for the November presidential election by electronic means, including fax and email.

Judges asked LaRose’s attorney, Renata Staff, and an attorney for the Trump campaign and other Republican committees how they could defend the reasonableness of the directive and whether outside factors like the coronavirus pandemic and cutbacks at the U.S. Postal Service could be taken into account.

“Why is it reasonable not to allow those methods when, I think an argument could be made, that in people’s normal lives and in the course of normal business, delivery is accomplished by those means all the time?” Klatt asked.

Republicans’ attorney, Ryan Harmanis, said state lawmakers had the ability to include those methods in the law, but they didn’t. He said the issue is ultimately a policy decision and not a matter for the courts.

Democrats’ attorney, Don McTigue, disagreed, arguing that, since the law is silent on what methods can be used to return ballots, it was unreasonable for LaRose to impose a restriction.

The secretary of state is bound by rules that require election laws to be “liberally construed in favor of access to voting” and not to make unduly technical interpretations.

“What we would say her is essentially a secretary of state, in construing essentially a silent statute on methods of delivery, he has failed to follow those two primary rules of statutory construction that apply in election matters,” McTigue said.

Attorneys on both sides brought up numerous outside factors impacting the case — voter access and convenience by Democrats, security risks and administrative burden by Republicans. Yet they said those shouldn’t be legally considered.

Judge Julia Dorrian asked, for example, “Does the secretary have that broad authority to take into consideration circumstances such as timing or budget or technological capabilities or COVID or USPS delays.”

Harmanis’ answer was no, statutes cannot be interpreted differently based on different outside factors but should be consistent.

Despite strong lobbying by LaRose, Ohio still lacks an online ballot request system, opting instead to mail paper absentee ballot applications to every registered voter. As of now, county election boards are only accepting completed applications by mail or in person.

The state deadline to submit an application is Oct. 31, though that, too, has proven problematic.

The date falls too close to the election to guarantee that a voter will be able to receive and return their ballot by the deadline, so LaRose has joined the U.S. Postal Service is urging Ohioans to get their applications in no later than Oct. 27.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 750432

Reported Deaths: 13764
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1031991782
Lake556411007
Allen41662691
St. Joseph36974564
Hamilton36561417
Elkhart29390459
Tippecanoe22886225
Vanderburgh22549400
Porter19348325
Johnson18432388
Hendricks17608317
Clark13206193
Madison13139344
Vigo12608253
LaPorte12415221
Monroe12188175
Delaware10954198
Howard10285225
Kosciusko9619119
Hancock8562145
Bartholomew8164157
Warrick7856156
Floyd7781180
Grant7232179
Wayne7160201
Boone6939103
Morgan6746141
Dubois6214118
Marshall6208116
Cass6000109
Dearborn589578
Henry5895109
Noble580787
Jackson508975
Shelby500896
Lawrence4738122
Gibson444593
Clinton441455
Harrison441073
DeKalb439485
Montgomery436390
Whitley406343
Huntington402481
Steuben399759
Miami393169
Jasper387454
Knox375890
Putnam372160
Wabash360683
Ripley346970
Adams345355
Jefferson335785
White331553
Daviess3033100
Wells295181
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay266448
Washington245234
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234431
Starke227958
Fountain220348
Sullivan214343
Owen211658
Fulton202142
Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188155
Perry187137
Rush175826
Vermillion174644
Franklin170335
Tipton166146
Parke149316
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120547
Newton113736
Brown104043
Crawford102316
Benton101414
Martin91615
Warren83815
Switzerland8118
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108146

Reported Deaths: 20122
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1286421460
Cuyahoga1157382208
Hamilton813551248
Montgomery525311041
Summit48395999
Lucas43343818
Butler38951604
Stark33318929
Lorain25658504
Warren24580303
Mahoning22355603
Lake21166387
Clermont20111253
Delaware18841135
Licking16660222
Fairfield16570204
Trumbull16537482
Medina15603271
Greene15272247
Clark14233306
Wood13287198
Portage13242214
Allen11910239
Richland11601211
Miami10843224
Wayne9130222
Columbiana9029230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8658122
Tuscarawas8643248
Marion8641138
Erie8056164
Ashtabula7147179
Hancock6996132
Ross6943161
Geauga6834150
Scioto6534105
Belmont6155174
Union584549
Lawrence5726102
Jefferson5675158
Huron5544122
Sandusky5439125
Darke5415129
Seneca5347126
Washington5318109
Athens523660
Auglaize501887
Mercer487385
Shelby476595
Knox4570112
Madison444065
Ashland435597
Putnam4336103
Defiance432298
Fulton432072
Crawford4036110
Brown402461
Logan387577
Preble3848104
Clinton379166
Ottawa373581
Highland359665
Williams348078
Champaign344258
Guernsey324853
Jackson318154
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin274965
Henry273367
Holmes2699101
Coshocton268960
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240750
Wyandot234556
Hocking220162
Carroll197148
Paulding176542
Meigs148240
Monroe136344
Noble136039
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85517
Unassigned03
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