Lawmakers Press LaRose to Ensure In-Person Voting is Safe by Implementing Recommendations of 200+ Health, Faith, and Voting Rights Groups
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with U.S. Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9), Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3), Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11), Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Elections, penned a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose urging him to immediately take action to protect the health and safety of Ohio voters and poll workers in this upcoming election.
Specifically, the lawmakers urged LaRose to immediately implement the recommendations made by a coalition of 200 doctors, faith leaders, and leading voting rights advocates to ensure voters and poll workers are not forced to make the impossible decision between their health and their fundamental right to vote. The recommendations include requiring social distancing, wearing facemasks, providing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to poll workers, and more.
“As Ohio’s Secretary of State, it is your responsibility to ensure that all Ohioans have access to safe in-person voting options and that poll workers, the backbone of our democracy, are afforded every health and safety precaution in this upcoming election. You have an urgent obligation to communicate the steps you are proactively taking to instill confidence in the machinery of democracy. We urge you to implement these recommendations, and thank you for your prompt consideration of our request,” the Ohio lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Last week, the lawmakers sent a letter to LaRose urging him to work with the skilled and dedicated tradespeople of Ohio to locate additional drop boxes across all 88 counties. The men and women of Ohio State Sheet Metal Workers Locals #24 and #33, as well as the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, have said they stand ready to build additional secure ballot boxes, at no cost to the state. LaRose’s recent appeal of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas’ ruling directing him to allow multiple secure ballot drop boxes is the latest example of how he has injected considerable uncertainty at an already challenging time for elections officials, working on tight schedules and budgets.
On Sept. 18, the lawmakers sent a letter to LaRose urging him to comply with a Franklin County Court of Common Pleas’ ruling directing him to allow multiple secure ballot drop boxes.
Brown, Kaptur, Fudge, Beatty and Ryan also sent a letter to LaRose in September asking him to use his existing authority to prepay postage for absentee ballots and ballot applications for the upcoming 2020 General Election in Ohio. The lawmakers also urged LaRose to communicate with the Postal Service to ensure ballots that originate in Ohio are delivered on time, with visible postmarks, and do not succumb to delays and cost cutting measures, which could endanger timely delivery of vote by mail ballots.
In August, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis and the Trump administration’s attempts to undercut the United States Postal Service (USPS), LaRose inexplicably banned county boards of elections from providing more than one ballot drop box for completed absentee ballots. He acted to ban additional secure drop boxes at the same time that absentee ballot applications were “pouring into Ohio’s boards of elections at an unprecedented rate.” In response, Brown, Kaptur, Beatty, Fudge, and Ryan urged him to reconsider his decision, explaining his clear authority to permit multiple drop boxes in each county. This authority was affirmed by the Franklin County Court’s recent ruling.
Full text of the letter sent today can be found here and below:
October 1, 2020
Dear Secretary of State LaRose:
Every year millions of Ohioans line-up at their local boards of elections and polling sites to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. Everything must be done to ensure the health and safety of poll workers and those casting in-person votes. A coalition of 200 doctors, dozens of faith leaders, and leading voting rights advocates recently urged you to take specific steps to protect the health and safety of voters and poll workers in this upcoming election. On behalf of Ohio voters and poll workers, we urge you to fully consider and implement their recommendations.
Ohioans who vote in-person this election should not have to make the impossible decision over whether to risk their health to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Ohio is no stranger to long lines at polling locations with vote wait times that are sometimes as long as 10 hours. While this is already a disruption to the voting process, we are concerned that the shortage of poll workers will further exacerbate this problem and increase the risk of further spread of the Coronavirus. With this in mind, we ask that you commit to ensuring that polls and in-person absentee voting sites have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect poll workers and voters.
Ohio’s polling locations should take every possible step to mitigate the risks to in-person voters and poll workers. We urge you to, at a minimum, immediately implement the following six recommendations from the letter referenced above:
1. All voters waiting inside or outside of the polling location must observe rules regarding 6-foot distancing.
2. Polling locations should be required to post signage encouraging those who have any of the underlying conditions (defined by the Ohio Department of Health) to ask for “special protection.” That protection should include being offered voting outside as well as being given preference in voting order to reduce their indoor exposure time.
3. All poll workers and voters must wear face masks or face shields when inside polling locations. Additionally, disposable masks should be made available to all voters who do not bring their own to the polls. Voters who decline to wear a mask, or who cannot wear one for health reasons, or who request voting outside the polling location should be escorted to an out-door or separate, isolated area of the voting location, and be allowed to complete their voting process there. In this regard, Ohio’s existing rules on assisting voting in cars for those with disabilities could be extended and streamlined to “drive through” arrangements.
4. Voters should be required to wash hands or use hand-sanitizer when entering and when leaving the polling location.
5. Plastic barriers must be erected at any poll worker station where more than 1-minute interactions between poll workers and voters are expected.
6. Indoor polling places must be well ventilated or well-filtered if supplied by recirculating air.
As Ohio’s Secretary of State, it is your responsibility to ensure that all Ohioans have access to safe in-person voting options and that poll workers, the backbone of our democracy, are afforded every health and safety precaution in this upcoming election. You have an urgent obligation to communicate the steps you are proactively taking to instill confidence in the machinery of democracy. We urge you to implement these recommendations and thank you for your prompt consideration of our request.