September 2, 2011
TOLEDO — Ohio will mail absentee ballot request forms to voters in all counties ahead of the 2012 presidential election, settling a dispute between the state’s top election official and the leader of the state’s largest county.
As part of the agreement announced Friday, Cuyahoga County officials agreed not to send out unsolicited mailings for absentee ballots for this year’s general election.
Cuyahoga County officials in Cleveland had threatened to defy Secretary of State Jon Husted’s order barring county elections boards from mailing the unsolicited applications. The county’s council earlier in the week authorized mailings to all registered voters.
That led to a meeting Thursday in Columbus where Husted, a Republican, and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat, worked out the compromise.
“We ended up making voting more convenient for millions of Ohioans,” FitzGerald said in a statement. “This is great news for anyone who believes public officials should try to keep voting simple.”
Husted last month issued the directive stopping county elections boards from mailing applications ahead of Election Day, saying he wanted all counties on the same page. He said the agreement will keep that goal in place.
“Ultimately it will be the voters who benefit from this agreement,” he said in a statement. “This will help reduce the chance of long lines at the polls during the presidential election and voters in smaller counties will have the same conveniences as voters in larger counties.”
The Cuyahoga County Council earlier this week found a way around Husted’s order by voting to have its public works department oversee the mailings because the ban only applied to elections boards.
Husted threatened to block the applications from being processed, and Ohio Auditor Dave Yost said he would look at whether the council had the authority to ignore the ban.
FitzGerald said about half the county’s voters use absentee ballot and that the practice has alleviated long lines and other problems. He said a change would reduce voter turnout in the largely Democratic county.
Absentee ballots allow Ohio voters to cast an early ballot by mail or in person.
Husted’s directive is in line with a provision of Ohio’s new elections law, which could face a ballot repeal even though it hasn’t taken effect.