COLUMBUS — The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) filed a lawsuit Friday morning it says will help the secretary of state, who is a Republican, ensure voter safety in November.

ODP Chairman David Pepper said the lawsuit, filed in state court in Franklin County, states Ohio law already allows absentee ballot applications to be sent by email, fax or other digital means, and seeks to ensure county board of elections accept those applications.

“In 2020, when we have all of this technology available that allows people to conduct so many activities securely online, voters should not have to choose between their health or their right to vote,” Pepper said. “Secretary of State Frank LaRose says that he supports online absentee ballot applications.”

Pepper added, however, that LaRose has said he needs legislative action to permit such applications. He said the lawsuit makes clear that is not the case, and that the Ohio Elections Code states an application “need not be in any particular form.”

Absentee ballot applications need to contain specific information in whatever form they are sent to the board, including the elector’s:

Name;

Signature;

Address at which they are eligible to vote;

Date of birth;

Driver’s license number, last four digits of Social Security number or copy of current photo ID;

Statement identifying which election the ballot is being requested for, if it is a primary and their party affiliation.

“Not only is legislation not needed, we believe the language is clear it is illegal not to accept an electronic application,” Pepper said.

Zachary West, an attorney for the ODP, stated this only deals with applications for absentee ballots.

“The physical ballot must be returned by mail or in person,” West said.

Gretchen Bennett, voter protection director for ODP, said 22 other states, including those with Republican governors, allow online or email application requests for ballots.

“Our hope is Secretary LaRose will support this rather than fight it so he can do what he says he wants to do,” Pepper said.

Also on Friday, The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Ohio, and Lawyers’ Committee filed a federal lawsuit challenging Ohio’s system of matching voter signatures on absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications. The case was filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Philip Randolph Institute of Ohio and an individual, stating the system is flawed.

“Ohio’s confusing, inconsistent signature-match process too often results in eligible Ohio voters incorrectly having their absentee applications or ballots rejected,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Ohio.

The Ohio Republican Party (ORP) alleged the lawsuits are aimed at impacting the outcome of the Presidential Election.

“This is another desperate attempt to rig our elections by creating more vulnerabilities in our voting processes, which will lead to unsafe and unfair elections,” said ORP Communications Director Evan Machan.

“These two lawsuits combined make it possible for anyone to request a ballot for another voter without their knowledge or consent and no way to check for fraud,” he added.

Email comments to briank@northwestsignal.net

I started at the Northwest Signal in 1994 and became editor in 2004. I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1994.

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