LaRose: Ohio can run ‘honest, fair’ elections on St. Patrick’s

WARREN — Should legislators decide the March 2020 primary election will be on St. Patrick’s Day, Ohio will be ready to run “honest, fair” elections, said Ohio’s chief elections official, who’s also reminding voters they have plenty of time to cast a ballot before Election Day should celebrating conflict with voting.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose responded to a letter from 24 Democratic state lawmakers concerned the move would stifle voter turnout with his own letter Tuesday and further discussed the issue Wednesday during a swing through Warren.

As it stands now, Ohio would join Illinois, Arizona and Florida in setting the 2020 primary on March 17 should lawmakers leave the provision in the state’s two-year budget that’s being negotiated now in Columbus.

LaRose also noted Ohio has 28 days of early no-fault absentee voting, which is “significantly more than the national average” and Ohio is one of just 20 states with Saturday voting and one of just six states with Sunday voting.

“If you have to start drinking green beer at 6:30 that morning and you can’t go vote first, then you can vote by mail, you can vote absentee, you can vote in person at the board of elections, so there is a lot of options,” LaRose said at the Trumbull County Board of Elections. “I have the confidence that regardless of what day the Legislature chooses, if they chose the 17th, we’ll be ready to run honest, fair elections that day.”

LaRose said he reached out to several elections boards to ask elections officials if they could run fair elections if the date falls on the 17th.

“They said ‘yes, we’ve got plenty of notice. If we have to move a couple polling locations because of St. Patrick’s Day parades, we’ll move a couple polling locations. If we have a few poll workers who can’t work on St. Patrick’s Day because they have to do their St. Patrick’s Day festivities, they we have time to recruit more pollworkers,'” LaRose said.

Senate Republicans inserted the change into the budget proposal at the request of the Ohio Republican Party to be in line with Republican National Committee rules that set March 15 as the deadline for states to award delegates at the national convention on a winner-take-all basis.

If Ohio keeps the primary on March 10, the delegates would be proportional should President Donald Trump face competition.

Other factors in favor of March 17 are moving the election to March 24 would make the filing deadline for candidates on Christmas Eve. Moving it another week forward would make the filing deadline on New Year’s Eve.

State Reps. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, and Gil Blair, D-Weathersfield, were co-signers on the letter to LaRose.

“I recognize that we have early voting and it makes it easier to vote, however, as an experienced elected official, the busiest time at the polling place is right before work and the second busiest time is right after work, and that is going to conflict with the busiest time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day,” O’Brien said.

He also dismisses any argument relative to the filing deadlines being Christmas and New Year’s eves if the date is pushed back.

Candidates running for office, he said, by and large don’t worry themselves about the filing deadline.

State Sen. Sean J. O’Brien said he supports moving the date back a week to March 24. “We have enough problems getting people to vote as it is,” he said.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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