Huge majorities of Ohioans support broad, convenient voting options

By: - June 15, 2020 1:00 am

A resident waits in line to vote at a polling place. Photo by Scott Olson | Getty Images.

As the Ohio General Assembly considers how the November General Election will be conducted, Ohio voters are clear: They want many options to cast their votes and they want them made easy as possible.

As primaries in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere have demonstrated, conducting elections amid the coronavirus pandemic can be problematic. And even though he cast a mail-in absentee ballot himself, President Donald Trump continues to rail against voting by mail, claiming without evidence that it’s vulnerable to rampant fraud.

Such claims don’t seem to have gained much traction in Ohio, according to a poll commissioned by the voting-access group Secure Democracy. The online poll of 600 registered voters found that 78% of Ohioans support allowing voters to request an absentee ballot online and 75% of voters support mailing applications for absentee ballots.

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, which received a B+ in FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings

“Voters in Ohio definitely want improvements to absentee voting like pre-paid postage and mailing absentee applications to all voters, strongly support expanding the number of early in-person voting locations per county, and strongly oppose reducing in-person polling places on Election Day,” a memo by Public Opinion Strategies said.

Among the findings of the poll, which was conducted May 18-21:

  • 89% favor allowing counties to expand the number of early in-person voting locations in each county. 
  • 87% said it’s important to provide in-person voting. 
  • 76% oppose reducing the number of in-person voting locations.
  • 80% said the federal government should provide additional funding to states and counties to cover the increased costs of conducting elections due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • 85% said the state legislature should provide additional funding to counties to handle the increased costs of conducting elections due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

“The poll provides very clear evidence that Ohioans value having options for casting a ballot in a way that works for them and their safety,” the Public Opinion Strategies memo said. “Ohio voters also strongly believe that the state legislature and US Congress both should provide additional funding to cover the increased costs of conducting elections in the age of coronavirus.”

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has recommended many of the measures that are heavily favored in the poll, including allowing voters to request mail-in ballots online and using federal dollars to pay for the postage.

“Our state is a national leader in voter convenience and election integrity,” he said in announcing his plan. “Because we have a fundamentally strong system for voting, we do not require a rewrite of Ohio’s election laws, but rather we must act now to improve our existing system.”

However, his proposal is out of step with public opinion in that he contemplates allowing local elections officials to reduce the number of polling places. Since the U.S. Supreme County in 2013 struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, officials have shuttered hundreds of polling sites across the U.S. Many were in minority communities, prompting accusations of voter suppression on the part of Republican officials.

In his plan for November, LaRose said, “Whether (local officials) choose to consolidate polling locations or not, they know their voters best and can determine the best option to keep people safe while running an accessible election. It’s time to reevaluate the requirements placed on boards of elections for the numbers of poll workers and machines required on election day.”

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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.