Lawmakers Are Concerned That AG Yost’s Defense of Ohio’s Restrictive Voter Laws May Have Been Influenced by Hans Von Spakovsky, The Nation’s Foremost Voter Suppression Advocate; Von Spakovsky Is Known To Have Met With Ohio Secretary Of State Frank LaRose on Multiple Occasions
WASHINGTON, DC – 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 Attorney General David Yost demanding answers about whether his office has had contact with Hans Von Spakovsky, the nation’s leading voter suppression advocate. The lawmakers also pressed for information about Von Spakovsky’s influence over key decisions made by the Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office, which has affected Ohioans’ access to the ballot box. Earlier this month, the lawmakers sent a letter to Sec. LaRose, who is known to have had contact with Von Spakovsky.
“Citizens of our state have the right to know whether the voter suppression tactics perpetuated by Hans Van Spakovsky and his allies have influenced your defense of Ohio’s restrictive voting laws,” wrote the lawmakers.
“It is imperative that the people of Ohio know that their elected officials are working on behalf of the state and not on behalf of well-funded, out-of-state entities with a history of vote suppression,” the lawmakers continued.
Earlier this month, the lawmakers penned a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose blasting him for, deceptively, directing alternative ballot drop boxes to be placed alongside existing units. Sec. LaRose’s directive serves as little more than political cover for his ongoing, unilateral campaign to hinder Ohioans’ ability to vote. They also urged Sec. LaRose to live up to his word and permit multiple drop boxes to be located throughout each county, in the wake of three court rulings affirming his authority to do so.
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.
In September, 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.
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 27, 2020
The Honorable David Yost
Attorney General of Ohio
30 E. Broad St., 14th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
Dear Attorney General Yost:
As Ohio’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer, you play an integral role in ensuring that our election laws are followed so that all eligible Ohioans can vote freely, fairly, and safely. In this role, you complement and support the Secretary of State’s efforts as he seeks to administer Ohio’s elections. We were disappointed when his office withdrew its request for your guidance regarding the legality of secure ballot boxes and remain concerned with the litigation you have pursued – litigation that will limit options for eligible Ohioans seeking to vote in the means best for them.
Sadly, efforts by state officials in Ohio and nationally to suppress the vote is not a coincidence and it is certainly not an accident. We were concerned to learn that Ohio’s Secretary of State and his staff met with Hans Von Spakovsky – the nation’s leading voter suppression advocate – multiple times before making critical decisions that affected Ohioan’s access to the ballot box. Mr. Von Spakovsky’s life work is to help erect barriers to voting – barriers that impede the ability of U.S. citizens to vote. Given the Secretary of State’s repeat meetings, we wrote to him seeking to learn more about his meetings with Mr. Von Spakovsky and his associates. A copy of that letter is enclosed.
Given the essential role that your office plays in supporting the Secretary’s litigation efforts, we believe it equally important to learn about any interactions your office might have had with Mr. Von Spakovsky and his associates. Citizens of our state have the right to know whether the voter suppression tactics perpetuated by Hans Van Spakovsky and his allies have influenced your defense of Ohio’s restrictive voting laws. Therefore, we respectfully request that you, produce the following records within seven business days:
1) What communications have you or your staff had with Hans Van Spakovsky or his staff at the Heritage Foundation?
2) What communications have your or your staff had with representatives from any of Ohio’s other executive state offices about Hans Van Spakovsky, his work, or his staff at the Heritage Foundation?
3) Have you or your staff received any materials produced by Hans Van Spakovsky or his staff at the Heritage Foundation? If yes, please provide copies of any such documents and detail when and from whom you received them.
4) Has Hans Van Spakovsky or his staff at the Heritage Foundation informed any of the legal strategies that you have pursued in the name of the people of Ohio? If so, what legal advice has he given you, and of that advice, what have you relied upon?
It is imperative that the people of Ohio know that their elected officials are working on behalf of the state and not on behalf of well-funded, out-of-state entities with a history of vote suppression. Your prompt attention to these questions is appreciated.