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Shouldn’t we be making voting easier?

With just under 50 days until Election Day, nearly 1.4 million absentee ballot applications have been received by county boards of elections in Ohio.

Ballots requested by military and overseas voters — about 15,800 of them — were to begin being mailed out Friday. All other ballots will be mailed to voters requesting them beginning Oct. 6.

Undoubtedly, all these requests — with many, many more to come — are going to tax the U.S. Postal Service.

We’ve all read and heard the debate over whether the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has intentionally attempted to slow the mail delivery during election season.

Whether or not that’s true, there can be little debate that fears of COVID-19 and the intense interest in this year’s presidential race will challenge the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to handle the deluge of election mail.

There are concerns about timeliness of requests for ballots, quick turnaround by boards of elections and then the return ballots by the voters.

Hoping to head off those concerns and make it easier for all registered voters to cast ballots, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose proposed Ohio’s Controlling Board approve spending $3 million on postage for mail-in absentee ballots.

That idea was soundly defeated last week by a 4-2 vote along party lines.

“A no vote today is a no vote that is over the objection of our bipartisan election officials and over my objection as the state’s chief elections officer,” LaRose had argued.

The request represented a last-ditch effort by LaRose after a package of election changes he proposed in May stalled in the GOP-led Legislature. He pitched it as an “innovative solution” for paying postage that would make “every mailbox a drop box for millions of Ohioans” and not require spending of state and federal budget dollars.

To board members’ pushback, LaRose argued that the same fund has been used in the past to pay for voting machines, poll worker training and election-related legal fees.

Indeed, providing return postage for mail-in ballots obtained and marked legally by voters would make the process more convenient. It also could avoid some delays that may affect the election.

The concerns raised by voters and by LaRose are logical, and like all logical problems, reasonable people can work to find logical solutions.

How about placing more Boards of Elections-controlled ballot drop boxes around Ohio’s counties?

That seems logical, right?

Apparently not.

Now, there are new legal arguments over whether Ohio counties should be permitted to have more than one Board of Elections ballot drop-off box to ease accessibility by voters who might want to avoid the whole postal system and drop off their ballot, but who might have to travel some distance to their county’s board of elections office.

Really? This requires a legal battle?

At the end of the day, voting should be easy. If efforts can be made to ensure safety and security of our nation’s and our state’s electoral system, then I say, have at it.

A couple of former — and, believe it or not — bipartisan Ohio governors agreed.

Democrat Richard Celeste and Republican Bob Taft, wrote a letter.

“Voting is not a Democrat or Republican issue — it’s an American issue,” they wrote. “That is why, when the world is facing a pandemic, we must show the courage to take additional steps to empower voters seeking to exercise their sacred right.”

LaRose isn’t giving up on democracy.

“Ohioans continue to show incredible confidence in our absentee voting system, and our county boards are well-equipped to handle the surge in requests,” said LaRose. “Whether voting early in-person, at your polling location on election day, or from the comfort of your own home, Ohioans will have their voice heard this fall.”

Lawmakers need to realize this is an unorthodox election year, and they should take extraordinary steps to make voting easier for all.

This is America, after all. It’s this critically important right and responsibility that shapes our future.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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