Sec­re­tary of State dis­cusses pri­or­i­ties

Frank LaRose re­cently vis­ited Lake County

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By An­drew Cass [email protected]­ald.com @An­drewCassNH on Twit­ter

Newly sworn-in Ohio Sec­re­tary of State Frank LaRose has been mak­ing his to way to boards of elec­tion across the state and re­cently made a stop in Lake County.

The Hud­son Repub­li­can said he’s been mak­ing the rounds to in­tro­duce him­self to the boards of elec­tion teams around the state, let­ting them know “they have a part­ner in Colum­bus.”

“The Sec­re­tary of State has an im­por­tant role over­see­ing the county boards of elec­tion, but by and large they do great work and I’m just here to part­ner with them.”

With just about three weeks on the job, LaRose said he’s also try­ing to learn from the boards, whose lead­er­ship teams can have years and decades of ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’ve picked up a lot along the way that helps me bet­ter un­der­stand when my staff brings an is­sue to my at­ten­tion, I un­der­stand what they’re talk­ing about be­cause I’ve been to the rooms where they tab­u­late the votes, I’ve seen the equip­ment, I’ve seen the of­fices, I’ve seen where they store the equip­ment,” he said.

“I learned this thing in the army about when you’re the guy in charge, some­times peo­ple tell you what you want to hear and sur­round you with sun­shine and rain­bows when that’s not nec­es­sar­ily the truth,” LaRose said. “When you come out and visit the county boards of elec­tions, if some­thing’s screwed up they’ll tell you.”

Last year the Ohio leg­is­la­ture ap­proved fund­ing for coun­ties to pur­chase new vot­ing equip­ment. Some coun­ties are re­plac­ing their equip­ment this year, oth­ers are wait­ing un­til 2021, the year af­ter the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Lake County has not yet made a fi­nal de­ci­sion on when new equip­ment will be im­ple­mented.

LaRose said that some county elec­tion of­fi­cials were plan­ning on just throw­ing the old equip­ment away. He wants to find an e-waste re­cy­cler to “do some­thing bet­ter than just lit­er­ally truck loads, trac­tor trailer loads of vot­ing ma­chines in a land­fill, which doesn’t make any sense.”

Af­ter speak­ing with the Lake County Elec­tions Board and tour­ing their fa­cil­i­ties, LaRose spoke to the News-Her­ald about some of his pri­or­i­ties as Sec­re­tary of State.

He said se­cu­rity of elec­tions will be one of his fo­cuses. He has a pro­posal he wants to bring to the state leg­is­la­ture that would cre­ate a chief in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity of­fi­cer for the Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice. That per­son would fo­cus on elec­tion se­cu­rity not only for his of­fice, but would also as­sist the county elec­tion boards as needed.

LaRose said he also wants the state to pay the re­turn postage for mail-in bal­lots.

“In the scale of state bud­get­ing, the amount of money we would need to just go ahead and make it a postage paid re­turn en­ve­lope is a worth­while in­vest­ment,” he said.

Also along the lines of vot­ing con­ve­nience, cur­rently to sub­mit an ab­sen­tee bal­lot re­quest re­quires paper. LaRose said wants that process should be on­line, just like the voter reg­is­tra­tion process.

Non-state of­fice can­di­dates are still re­quired to sub­mit cam­paign fi­nanc­ing re­ports in paper. LaRose said he also wants to change that. Since 2000, state can­di­dates have sub­mit­ted their re­ports on the Sec­re­tary of State’s web­site by up­load­ing a spread­sheet.

Hav­ing the re­ports on­line al­lows eas­ier ac­cess to see who is giv­ing money to can­di­dates, both in terms of ac­ces­si­bil­ity and search­a­bil­ity.

“I’ve been propos­ing this for three years in the leg­is­la­ture that we fi­nally al­low coun­tries to re­ceive elec­tronic fil­ings for cam­paign fi­nance,” said LaRose, who served as a state se­na­tor be­fore be­ing elected Sec­re­tary of State. “It’s just bet­ter trans­parency, it’s sort of mov­ing it into the 21st Cen­tury.”

When asked about po­ten­tial changes to the way Ohio re­moves in­ac­tive vot­ers from the rolls, LaRose said the ex­ist­ing process has been up­held by the U.S. Supreme Court and the process is “sort of well un­der­stood

“The Sec­re­tary of State has an im­por­tant role over­see­ing the county boards of elec­tion, but by and large they do great work and I’m just here to part­ner with them.” — State Frank LaRose

in Ohio be­cause it’s been in place for a long time.”

That doesn’t mean it’s ideal, he said.

“It’s not. Again, it’s sort of based on this an­ti­quated sys­tem of ‘we as­sume if we haven’t heard from you in six years that you’re dead or have moved.’ We can do bet­ter than that now. There has to be a way to re­move vot­ers that we be­lieve have moved or passed on. I think that we can look at a longer time­frame, maybe eight years or what­ever, but we can also use tech­nol­ogy a lot bet­ter. The Na­tional Change of Ad­dress data­base. Sys­tems like (Elec­tronic Reg­is­tra­tion In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter), which is a multi-state col­lab­o­ra­tive... and I’d like to see a more au­to­mated process for up­dat­ing ad­dresses and reg­is­ter­ing peo­ple to vote.”

He said the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in­ter­act with the state govern­ment at least once a year, whether it’s pay­ing taxes, re­new­ing driv­ers li­cense or getting a fish­ing li­cense, etc. All of those cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties to up­date peo­ple’s vot­ing ad­dresses.

“We don’t take that ad­van­tage right now, but a lot of peo­ple as­sume we do,” he said.

They should be bet­ter able to co­or­di­nate across the dif­fer­ent “si­los” of state govern­ment, LaRose added.

“So when some­body goes to get their fish­ing li­cense, that should cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity to reg­is­ter them to vote or up­date their in­for­ma­tion.”

Dur­ing his tour of the fa­cil­i­ties, Lake County Elec­tions Board Deputy Di­rec­tor Jan Clair asked LaRose his thoughts on vote cen­ters. The idea was first im­ple­mented by Colorado, where vot­ers can cast bal­lots on Elec­tion Day at any polling lo­ca­tion in the dis­trict, re­gard­less of their res­i­den­tial ad­dress. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures, there are now 13 states that al­low vote cen­ters.

LaRose said he’s open to the idea.

“It’s a cul­tural change, right? So any­time that we make changes like this, there has to be wide pub­lic ac­cep­tance be­fore we can do it, but it’s cer­tainly more ef­fi­cient.”

He said he wants to talk to the Ohio As­so­ci­a­tion of Elec­tions Of­fi­cials about that idea and said he wouldn’t move for­ward with­out “broad buy-in” from both the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can par­ties.

LaRose

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