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After rejecting absentee voter applications under new law, LaRose now says some old forms are OK

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose speaks to the Fairfield County Lincoln Republican Club in Pickerington, Ohio, on March 24, 2022.
Paul Vernon
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose speaks to the Fairfield County Lincoln Republican Club in Pickerington, Ohio, on March 24, 2022.

After saying an Ohio law passed in December requiring voters to show photo ID also requires a specific form for absentee ballots, the secretary of state’s office now says outdated forms are OK in certain circumstances.

This comes after a Cleveland newspaper published an old absentee ballot application form, and a group backing the only issue on the ballot sent out mailers that also feature an outdated form.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said this weekend around 30 absentee applications using an absentee ballot application form printed in the Cleveland Jewish News last month were rejected. He said House Bill 458, the law passed in December that requires voters to show photo ID, also requires absentee voters to use a form from his office.

“We've instructed that board of elections to contact — personally contact — each one of those voters so that they could fill out the correct form, mail them the correct form, all that kind of thing," LaRose said at an event at Ohio Republican Party headquarters to launch the "get out the vote" effort on Issue 1. "And so that's just one of the changes that was in there, that yeah, it's got to be the prescribed form from the Secretary of State's office."

LaRose said the correct form has since been provided to the Ohio Newspaper Association, and that groups that want to share the form should get it from his website and not from other sources.

The group Protect Our Constitution sent out mailers this week also featuring an outdated form. That group supports Issue 1, which would raise the voter approval threshold for future constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60%. LaRose also supports Issue 1, along with most Ohio Republican officeholders. The issue is the only one in the special election on Aug. 8. The law that requires the specific form also banned most August special elections, but the Ohio Supreme Court ruled House Bill 458 didn't apply to an election called to decide a constitutional amendment put forward by state lawmakers.

LaRose's office said in an email Tuesday evening that previous absentee application forms would be accepted as long as they include valid identification as required in House Bill 458. An acceptable form would have to have either a driver’s license or state ID number, the last four digits of a social security number or a copy of the voter’s photo ID.

Voting rights advocates are watching the situation carefully.

it seems that there are multiple forms that are now accepted, according to the secretary," said Collin Marozzi, deputy policy director for the ACLU of Ohio.

The ACLU is part of the coalition that opposes Issue 1. Marozzi said he's pleased at the decision to allow older forms to be accepted, but he admitted to some lingering questions.

"I think the people of Ohio deserve some clarity as to why those forms were rejected, why the pro-Issue 1 forms were accepted, what was the difference or what was the cause for that discrepancy in order to eliminate any perception of, frankly, selective enforcement of Ohio's voting laws," Marozzi said.

Marozzi said there are no plans for legal action, and that the ACLU wants voters to be aware that older forms of the application will be accepted as long as a form of valid ID is provided.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.