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: 306538

Reported Deaths: 5435
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41953849
Lake26872453
Allen17621295
Elkhart16905219
St. Joseph16524223
Hamilton12696167
Vanderburgh9552115
Tippecanoe844927
Porter813785
Johnson6231165
Vigo597979
Hendricks5944156
Monroe530349
Clark504077
Madison4858121
Delaware4820103
LaPorte457194
Kosciusko455739
Howard334975
Warrick319572
Floyd311477
Bartholomew308462
Wayne301367
Cass295831
Marshall293744
Grant262949
Noble249846
Hancock246551
Boone240254
Henry240237
Dubois234631
Dearborn215730
Jackson212633
Morgan204443
Gibson181725
Knox181419
Shelby178254
Clinton177821
Lawrence174047
DeKalb172829
Adams166422
Wabash158020
Miami157814
Daviess154643
Fayette147733
Steuben143513
Jasper142111
Harrison141824
LaGrange140129
Montgomery139027
Whitley133412
Ripley128114
Decatur124643
Huntington123510
Putnam123027
Randolph120719
Wells120428
White120321
Clay119822
Posey119616
Jefferson116216
Scott103219
Greene101353
Jay96413
Starke90621
Sullivan88916
Fulton83518
Jennings83214
Spencer8198
Perry81521
Fountain7738
Washington7417
Franklin68626
Carroll67913
Orange66628
Vermillion5993
Owen5987
Parke5606
Newton55312
Tipton55226
Rush5317
Blackford51912
Pike50318
Pulaski37710
Martin3515
Benton3362
Brown3353
Crawford2881
Union2671
Switzerland2555
Warren2382
Ohio2307
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371840

Reported Deaths: 6100
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin50231667
Cuyahoga36047741
Hamilton29931372
Montgomery20065228
Butler14769146
Lucas14317414
Summit13388316
Stark8792197
Warren819175
Mahoning7276299
Lake682666
Lorain643499
Clermont577248
Delaware556436
Licking549276
Fairfield538464
Trumbull5305147
Greene522364
Clark511464
Allen465485
Marion465251
Wood4491107
Medina447756
Miami425867
Pickaway399348
Columbiana347297
Portage344872
Tuscarawas328658
Wayne318793
Richland316638
Mercer289945
Hancock241337
Ross240759
Muskingum240210
Auglaize231031
Putnam224749
Erie224266
Darke223559
Ashtabula223253
Geauga203351
Scioto195915
Union19118
Shelby190615
Lawrence189438
Athens18864
Seneca180018
Belmont164929
Madison158918
Sandusky154229
Preble152621
Huron152318
Defiance139522
Holmes139139
Logan127816
Knox126318
Fulton124525
Washington121927
Crawford121516
Ottawa121130
Clinton106714
Williams10579
Ashland105222
Highland101317
Jefferson10124
Henry100023
Brown9925
Champaign9475
Jackson93112
Hardin91019
Fayette90317
Van Wert8976
Morrow8882
Guernsey83914
Coshocton82613
Perry78712
Adams78313
Pike7451
Gallia73513
Wyandot71216
Paulding64611
Hocking62616
Noble60223
Carroll45710
Meigs39012
Monroe31821
Morgan2575
Vinton2195
Harrison2023
Unassigned00
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