COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s elections chief said Tuesday that he would use a new tack with resistant state lawmakers in order to put paid postage on every Ohio ballot: funding it out of his business services budget.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said his “innovative solution” for paying postage would help make “every mail box a drop box for millions of Ohioans, making it easier than ever to cast a ballot in a general election.”
LaRose’s comment is related to pushback he’s been facing from Democrats and voting rights groups over a directive issued last week that limited the number of ballot drop boxes in Ohio to one per county.
Drop boxes have been seen as a key tool during the coronavirus pandemic for voters to deliver absentee ballots to election boards without risking illness and, more recently, postal delays.
An election bill that LaRose proposed in May, which called paying ballot postage and a series of other election changes, has stalled.
He continued to insist until Tuesday that he could not act on the postage issue without legislative approval.
But LaRose said even using money from his office budget will require the OK of the powerful state Controlling Board, a spending oversight panel — a contention Democrats refute.
In a letter to LaRose Tuesday, legislative Democrats contended that he already has both the power and the authorization he needs to add drop boxes and to pay ballot postage.
The legislators noted that the Controlling Board already approved LaRose covering eligible election expenses from CARES Act money back in June.
They noted that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has issued guidance listing postage among eligible uses of that federal COVID-19 relief money.
“What more do you need?” they asked. “We are still waiting to see your spending plan for the CARES Act money and we urge you to prioritize paying return postage.”
LaRose’s office said 90% of that earlier sum is already committed.
The secretary’s new request will ask the board to approve $3 million in funds from his offices Business Services Division for the postage. His office doesn’t expect costs of postage to exceed $2 million.