Ohio Republicans have had a ready response to charges of voter suppression. In 2012, Jon Husted, the secretary of state, settled a dispute with Cuyahoga County by sending out absentee ballot applications to every voter in the state, ensuring all would be treated equally. He will do the same this fall.
Yet despite Husted’s efforts, the sparring continues. A recent law pushed through by majority Republicans invited the conclusion their party is ready to play games. The law says that only the secretary of state can mail out absentee ballot applications, and only if the legislature appropriates money. (Husted is using leftover federal funds to cover the cost, about $1.6 million.)
In response, Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive and Democratic candidate for governor, won approval from the County Council to send out mailings, if necessary. He did so as the legislature threatened to cut local government funds to counties that acted on their own.
Fortunately, the legislature dropped the threat, after both Gov. John Kasich and Husted opposed the idea. Unfortunately, David Yost, the state auditor and also a Republican, said he could envision issuing a finding against Cuyahoga County if it went ahead with mailings, with local officials personally responsible for paying.
It’s time to stop the games. The legislature should put into law the necessary funding and remove any doubt going forward that every Ohio voter in a general election will get an absentee ballot application, a convenience that shrinks lines on Election Day, easing access for all voters.