The Cuyahoga County Council approved the proposal Tuesday in response to a state law barring county elections boards and public officials from mailing such forms

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CLEVELAND -- Cuyahoga County leaders have voted to assert home-rule powers and mail unsolicited, absentee-ballot applications to registered voters if the state doesn't do so.

The Cuyahoga County Council approved the proposal Tuesday in response to a state law barring county elections boards and public officials from mailing such forms.

The proposal came from county Executive Ed FitzGerald, who says he's not intimidated by threats to cut off 10 percent of the county's local government share of the local government funds if the county sends out absentee ballot applications in violation of a newly-enacted state law.

He called the move "blackmail " and "sleazy politics" and said the county will not be deterred.

"If the folks in Columbus think we are going to be impressed by these kind of hardball tactics, they have another think coming," he said.

Tuesday afternoon Republicans backed off the threat to cut county funding.

Gov. John Kasich came out against it

The ban on counties sending applications on their own is just one measure that some view as a bid to suppress Democratic votes. Early voting days were reduced, and there won't be early night or Sunday voting either.

But Ohio's early voting opportunities still rank ahead of most states.

FitzGerald raised the stakes, asking for a federal probe into alleged suppression of voting rights involving Ohio's recent measures to reduce early voting opportunities.

He's written letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and local U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach.

FitzGerald claimed the funding cuts of $1.6 million would be felt in programs that include hiring sheriff's deputies and helping the food bank.

Thus far, much of the back and forth is political one-upmanship.

The state intends to send out early voting applications this November.

FitzGerald said this morning that his proposal is to have the county send applications when the state does not.

Secretary of State Jon Husted condemned the Republicans' threat and FitzGerald's escalation.

"It's an overreaction to an overreaction. ... It doesn't make it right to punish the people of Cuyahoga County for the actions by their leaders. ... Let's stop the silliness and act like responsible adults," he told Channel 3 news.

A spokesman for Ohio House Republicans compared this to the federal government's action to reduce state highway funding dollars by 10 percent if states did not adopt a lower blood alcohol limit.

FitzGerald mocked the comparison of a DUI level with the fundamental right to vote.

Portion of news conference from Cuyahoga County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on his effort to seek a federal voting access investigation. FitzGerald is a candidate for Governor challenging Governor John Kasich in November.

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