Cuyahoga County Council gave a first hearing to a proposal that would butt heads with state law on absentee ballot applications. County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants to ensure that local governments can mail out ballot applications regardless of what the state may do. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports council has made no decisions yet.
The measure says Cuyahoga County has a home rule right to mail voters absentee ballot applications from the county executive’s office. A newly passed state law says only the state legislature can approve mailing them.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has said that he will send out applications this year. But Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald – who’s running for governor as a Democrat – told council he doesn’t want to run the risk of the state in 2016 deciding it doesn’t have the money to mail applications. He said that should be a basic responsibility of government.
“So I would just say, look. You decide – you decide what you need to conduct a fair and effective election, and you fund that," FitzGerald said.
Statewide, the issue of voting access has divided many elected officials along party lines, and it’s become a major point of contention in the 2014 elections.
At council, two out of three Republicans were absent. GOP councilman Dave Greenspan did attend. He said afterward he wouldn’t vote for any legislation that breaks state law.
“Why would we put ourselves in a position to vote for a law that we know is in violation of state law, just to set ourselves up for a lawsuit, which would cost the taxpayers of this county a significant amount of money?” Greenspan said.
The only public comment on the measure came from Tim Russo, a candidate for Cuyahoga County executive, who broadly criticized Ohio's voting rules changes.
Council President C. Ellen Connally said council will examine the measure again in early April. She asked county law director Majeed Makhlouf to provide written answers to council members' questions on the measure.