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Election chief: Ohio positioning for smooth Election Night

The November election is less than two months away.
Credit: AP
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose briefs reporters on election preparations at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s elections chief said Tuesday that he continues to take steps to head off a potentially chaotic November election, including adding clarity to absentee ballot request forms, tracking poll worker recruitment and upgrading his website so the potentially large number of outstanding absentee ballots will be clearly visible on Election Night.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose said it would be a “nightmare scenario” if a candidate inaccurately declared victory based on incomplete, unofficial results.

“The old election official’s prayer is, ‘Lord, whoever wins, let them win big,’ right?” he said during a Statehouse briefing. “So we know that’s not always the case here in Ohio. We’ve had some tight margins in the past. Ohioans make you earn your victory. Nobody gets an easy ride here.”

He said reporting the number of outstanding absentee ballots is designed to make it “abundantly clear” if one candidate has defeated another or if more counting is needed to determine the victor. LaRose emphasized that results reported Nov. 3 — or into the morning of Nov. 4 — will still be unofficial, as always, with official results reported weeks later.

Also to avoid disenfranchisement, LaRose urged voters to be wary of the words and deeds of some fellow Republicans, reiterating an “effective deadline” of Oct. 27 for requesting mail-in ballots that precedes the actual GOP-penned cutoff by four days and labeling President Donald Trump’s advice that people vote twice as “misinformation.”

“Certainly, that doesn’t fall in the disinformation protocol that our office has set up, but it does fall into the category of I guess what you would call misinformation,” he said during a Statehouse briefing. “Where something incorrect was said and it’s my responsibility as secretary of state to make sure Ohioans know the facts, and that is: Vote once and your vote will be counted.”

LaRose said 7.8 million absentee ballot applications were mailed in time for Labor Day and that the embattled U.S. Postal Service appears to have gotten many of them to their destinations even sooner. He said Ohioans may receive similar applications in the coming weeks from other sources, including political parties, candidates and ideological groups — and that’s perfectly legal.

But he said there’s no need to send in duplicate requests, which add work for local boards. He noted the ballots themselves will not be mailed out until Oct. 6, when early in-person and absentee voting begins. Voter registration ends Oct. 5.