CLEVELAND — In the aftermath of a scathing report in the The New York Times on Cleveland-based Midwest Direct, responsible for handling thousands of absentee ballots for this year's election, company owners have taken a step to address the perception of potential bias.
Reid J. Epstein, who wrote the article for The Times, dove into the issues of ballot delays, but also revealed that the company's headquarters in Cleveland had been prominently flying a "Trump 2020" flag outside of their building. A picture was taken by a photographer for The Times and the flag had been spotted in multiple reports.
In a text to 3News' Lynna Lai on Saturday, co-owner Richard Gebbie stated that the company had decided to no longer fly the "Trump 2020" flag.
"As far as the flag is concerned, Jim (co-owner James Gebbie) and I flew the political flag because it's our freedom to support a candidate, as is true for every American. We have since decided to fly only the American flag at Midwest," Richard Gebbie wrote in the text.
"Midwest Direct is owned by two brothers, Richard Gebbie, the chief executive, and James Gebbie, the chairman. This summer they began flying a Trump 2020 flag above Midwest Direct’s headquarters on the west side of Cleveland," Epstein wrote, "It was a curious juxtaposition — a company in the business of distributing absentee ballots through the mail showing a preference for a president who has spent months denigrating the practice of voting by mail."
Midwest Direct was tasked earlier this year with handling thousands of ballots, which they say was unprecedented.
“It is fair to say today that no one – not the various boards of elections, not Ohio’s Secretary of State, not our company – anticipated the staggering volume of mail-in ballot requests that has actually occurred,” the company said in a statement following the story in The Times.
The Times did point out that there are no known reports or allegations of mishandling of the ballots that Midwest Direct has printed at this time.
This news comes just days after several prominent Ohio Democrats called on Secretary of State Frank LaRose to intervene and investigate the company's issues in printing and sending the absentee ballots that they had been contracted for. 3News sister station WTOL earlier this week reported that the Lucas County Board of Elections had found that more than 10% of the county's requested 62,000 absentee ballots had yet to be mailed.
"I am calling for an investigation into what happened at Midwest," Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken told WTOL. "Lucas is not the only county this has happened to...We deserve to know what happened. The company has not put much into writing for us. The only way we knew the ballots went out is because our bank account was charged (for the postage)," he said.