Aug 12, 2020
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Press Conference Transcript August 12: Election Updates
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose held a press conference on August 12 to give updates on the election processes for Ohio. Read the transcript here.
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Frank LaRose: (00:00)
… education credits. And so another one that we had the chance to announce just recently is with CPAs. So the accountancy board did this and we’re working with other professional licensure organizations to offer those continuing education credits to their members, to sign up to be poll workers. It all comes down to this. We need Ohioans to answer this important call to duty. The place to do that. Is at voteohio.gov/defend democracy. And by the way, we’re also working with the administration. And I hope the governor will be willing to do this to make sure that people who are on unemployment do not get penalized for being poll workers.
Frank LaRose: (00:32)
This is a concern that came up. And one of those things that we realized we had to take action on. And so I have officially asked the governor and the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services to rectify that situation so that people who are on unemployment know that they can sign up and be a poll worker without being penalized for that. Of course, poll worker recruitment is important and something that we’d ask all of you to continue sharing with your viewers and readers and listeners. Election night reporting. So we often get this question is election night going to take longer, or are we going to be able to get there the results out as soon as we’ve been accustomed to? Let me be very clear about this: speed is important. We all like to get those results quickly, but accuracy is even more important. In 83 days, that’s when voting ends. The voting will cease at 7:30 on November third, and that’s when the tabulation begins. But we know that many of the ballots will not be at the boards of elections yet. In an election where we know that video Highlands are going to choose to vote by mail and where we can receive those ballots up to 10 days after the election, we have to just realize the fact that on election night, we will tabulate everything we have. We will process and tabulate everything we have, but that doesn’t mean that that’s a final result.
Frank LaRose: (01:48)
So this is a civics lesson for all of us. We always talk about the unofficial results on election night. And people often don’t really think about what that means. That unofficial result on election night means just that, and this year, that unofficial result could change between then and three weeks later, when we certify the final results. That doesn’t mean that something nefarious is happening. That’s the very manifestation of our commitment that every vote matters, every voice matters. And whether it’s one of my former teammates who’s serving abroad or whether it’s an Ohioan who just procrastinates and waits to mail their ballot at the last minute. Those ballots that are legally cast and postmarked by November second, and received at the Board of Elections on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, those are important ballots and those have to be counted as well. And so I just urge a little bit of patience.
Frank LaRose: (02:34)
It may take longer on election night. Certainly that’s the case, but we also know that the results could change from what’s announced on election night and what’s announced weeks later when we have the final certification. I do want to also mention that Ohio is in a really good position on this compared to some other states. Our friends up the road in Michigan or over in Pennsylvania. They’re not even allowed to start to process ballots until election day. So here’s what that means. They just have to accumulate the mail. They keep it locked in a room, a big pile of mail, and they can’t start even cutting envelopes open until election day. That is going to cause for them a big problem. They’ve been trying to rectify that, but the law in their state requires them to not even open envelopes until election day.
Frank LaRose: (03:18)
Thankfully in Ohio, as we receive those ballots, we can cut them open, verify the information, check the signatures just as we’ve always done and even start scanning them, just not tabulate those until actually the polls close on election night, because certainly not until 7:30, can we know what direction the election is heading. And so it’s important to understand the difference between processing and tabulation. I’ve even asked my team to emphasize on our website where we do election night reporting that we’re accustomed to this traditional model of certain percentage of precincts have reported or what have you. But I want to make sure that we highlight that when we have our unofficial canvas on election night, that there’s still going to be in some cases, maybe hundreds or hundreds of thousands of ballots that are still out there that we know that were mailed out and we’re expecting will come back.
Frank LaRose: (04:09)
And so it’s something important for people to realize that speed is important, but accuracy is even more important. Security. This was a priority when I first came into office, it continues to be a priority. Of course, all of us have been talking about and concerned about the health situation and continue to be. But cyber security and the security of our elections continues to be a top priority. It’s important to understand that Ohio has taken a leadership role in the nation on this. Last year, we issued the most aggressive security posture of any state in the country.
Frank LaRose: (04:44)
This has been noticed by our US Department of Homeland Security, it’s been noticed really around the world. And that’s why I was asked to go speak in Tel Aviv, Israel in January at an international cyber security conference. The 34 points of our checklist were a lot of work for the Boards of Elections to do, and the millions of dollars of federal funding that we got out to them, allowed them to be able to do that work.
Frank LaRose: (05:04)
And in January, when we had our deadline, the counties met that challenge. They made sure that they have a secure posture and that we have things like an intrusion detector on all of our County Boards of Elections infrastructure. We have an event logging monitor and the right policies and procedures in place to make sure that we can respond if that alarm does go off. Of course, the human side of security is just as important. And that’s why we’ve had very aggressive training that we’ve engaged in and background checking to make sure that the men and women that are sitting in these computers can be that human firewall to protect our infrastructure. We take cyber security very seriously. It’s something that I think sets us apart from many other states, how aggressively we’ve taken this. And then just building on that recently, we sent out another directive that again, takes that next step.
Frank LaRose: (05:55)
We offered cybersecurity experts to help our County Boards of Elections. And so now there are six individuals that can serve our County Boards of Elections and give them that expertise that they may not have at the local level on cyber security. We’re using advanced technology such as AI to do pattern recognition and to make sure that we can notice when things are happening that need our attention. Of course, we’re working in doing information sharing, not only laterally between the other states, and we work very frequently with the other states and compare notes. And our chief information security officer talks to his counterparts in other states quite frequently. But we’re also working up and down. We worked very well with the US Department of Homeland Security. They are people that we talked to frequently. And then of course, we work well with our local government partners to our County Boards of Elections and law enforcement and it’s something that we take very seriously.
Frank LaRose: (06:50)
We also just issued something that you all hopefully noticed. We were the first state in the nation to issue a vulnerability disclosure policy. Now, what is that? This is something that’s been used by the private sector for years. It’s something that’s been used by the federal government for years. Even the US Defense Department has done this, where effectively, we’re inviting the good guys to find where the holes are before the bad guys do. And I use the military analogy of the perimeter fence. There are inevitably, holes in our perimeter fence. We work really hard to make sure that’s not the case, but the nature of cybersecurity is such that we know that those holes do exist. We want the good guys to find the holes in the fence before the bad guys do.
Frank LaRose: (07:31)
And that’s exactly why we were the first state in the nation to issue this vulnerability disclosure policy. It effectively invites, they called themselves security investigators. We used to call them white hat hackers. These are the good guys that want to test the computer systems. Some do it as a hobby. Some do it for notoriety. There’s a variety of different reasons why people engage in this, but we want them to test us out and show us where the vulnerabilities are. And I’m happy to report that since we’ve done that, we haven’t had a lot, but we know that they are testing. In fact, we had an email from again, a security investigator, or as we used to call them, white hat hackers, just today that it was alerting us that he’s going to start some tests on our website.
Frank LaRose: (08:14)
And we welcome that. And we look forward to hopefully finding out that our security is very good, but if not, we’ll need to respond to that. One other thing that’s important to security is maintaining the stability of our form of elections. And Ohio has a fundamentally sound and strong way of running elections. And so one thing that the General Assembly created that was a good change back in April was the creation of one drop box at every County Board of Elections. And that’s something that allows for voters to have 24/7 access. Most of these are curbside, so you can just drive up and do it if you want to return your ballot or return your absentee ballot request form. The addition of drop boxes at each county has been a good thing for the convenience of voters and a good thing for Ohio.
Frank LaRose: (09:00)
And of course, they’re under a 24/7 surveillance and kept secure. They’re serviced by a bipartisan team of elections officials on a daily basis. And that’s something that we take very seriously as well. So I want to announce that we’re going to direct the Boards of Elections to continue to make those available. Again, there were questions about whether that was going to continue to be an option. And so we’re announcing today that the 88 Boards of Elections are being directed that certainly starting September 1st and on through election day, that they must have those secure drop boxes available for every voter. Also the question came up about how about adding additional ones? This is one that has come up from time to time. And I think that this is a question for the Ohio General Assembly. Candidly, I asked the Attorney General to weigh in on this because it was a question of law.
Frank LaRose: (09:46)
And whether that the state law permitted that. And what I decided to do rather than wait for continued legal analysis of that was to move forward and say, “We’re not going to allow the addition of more drop boxes.” Again, this is something that I think is a fine idea to look at for the future. I hope that the legislature weighs in on this and it can be done in an equitable way, but with just under three months to go until election day, I don’t think it’s time to change the way that we’ve done things here in Ohio and add new drop boxes and questions about the validity of that, and also to risk litigation. This is not something that I think may happen, this is something that I know would happen. If we were to add more drop boxes around the state, there would be litigation on this.
Frank LaRose: (10:32)
We’ve seen it just in our neighboring state of Pennsylvania. And I don’t want to subject our 88 Boards of Elections to a bunch of wasteful litigation on this issue. But I do hope the legislature was in on it. Speaking of lawsuits, we all know that lawsuits are going to happen. I’ve been using the line from Casablanca where captain Renault says, “I’m shocked that there’s gambling occurring here.” It’s shocking that three months before an election people might file politically motivated lawsuits. It’s disappointing. But it’s the fact of life here in Ohio. And we know that we need to address those and keep our eye on the ball to make sure that we can deliver those fair and honest elections for the people of Ohio. Those lawsuits include things like telling us to stop signature verification. Folks has been done for hundreds of years, over 100 years, 200 years in our state’s history, the boards of elections have verified signatures.
Frank LaRose: (11:26)
It’s one of the important safeguards that exists. And it, by the way, is a thoroughly bipartisan process. Just like everything that’s done at the Boards of Elections. And then another lawsuit would blow a hole in our cybersecurity posture that we’ve worked so hard to create by opening up our boards of elections and requiring them to start downloading attachments from emails and to receive absentee ballot requests that way. Certainly, as you all know, I’m a big fan of modernizing the way that we do absentee ballot requests by creating an online opportunity for doing that. But using this sort of antiquated email system to receive absentee ballot requests would not be a smart idea for cybersecurity or for the stability of our elections. Voters need to know what to expect. And again, three months before an election is not a time to make a bunch of changes, whether it’s be a lawsuit or otherwise.
Frank LaRose: (12:16)
Legislative challenges. Back in April, I asked the legislature to do a few key things, they have not done many of them yet. Let’s suffice it to say, I’m disappointed in that. I’ve asked the state legislature to fix the Saturday deadline that leads to people getting their ballots after election day. There is no reason why Ohio should continue to be an outlier. We’re one of very few states in the nation that allows people to request an absentee ballot at noon on Saturday, effectively, one business day before the election, that needs to be changed. Unfortunately, the legislature hasn’t changed that. So I will continue to tell people do not wait that long to request your absentee ballot. The law may permit it, but it is a foolish thing to do, and will likely result in you getting your ballot after election day. The state legislature has not-
Frank LaRose: (13:03)
[inaudible 00:13:00] you getting your ballot after election day. The state legislature has not responded to the bipartisan calls from myself and from our elections officials to modernize the way that we do absentee ballot requests. We wanted to put those online five years ago. I started asking for that. We could use a system very similar to what we use for online voter registration to accept online absentee ballot requests, but again, the legislature has not acted.
Frank LaRose: (13:23)
We asked the legislature to authorize postage paid so that every ballot could be returned with the voter not having to find a postage stamp. Listen, I don’t think it’s the 55 cents necessarily that’s such a burden. For some people, that means more than for others, but I will say that for a lot of Ohioans, just having postage stamps at home is not a part of their normal life. Ask any of the 20-somethings that work in your office and they’ll probably tell you they know where to find postage stamps, but they’re not exactly sitting in their kitchen drawer. It’s just not a normal part of life for a lot of people.
Frank LaRose: (13:56)
So I think that we should provide postage paid. We can do that, by the way, all with federal funds. We had the opportunity to do that with federal funds, but it required a state legislative authority, and again, they chose not to give that. And it’s disappointing that, you know, obviously with the chaos created, with the situation in the House, that they had their eyes on other priorities perhaps, and that’s disappointing because I wish they would have partnered with me and listened to our county boards of elections that have been asking for a long time to do these important things that we need to get done.
Frank LaRose: (14:29)
But let’s not dwell on that because, really, what Ohioans should know is that our state is a leader in the nation. And I want to finish on this. Ohio leads the nation in early voting, Ohio leads the nation in absentee voting, and Ohio leads the nation in making sure that every Ohioan has a chance to cast a ballot. Those four weeks of early voting make us a top state in the country. By the way, the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank, just evaluated Ohio number six in the entire nation for our absentee ballot program. It’s a good thing. It’s something that we’re proud of. It’s easy to vote in Ohio. Everybody should take advantage of that. And it will be, again, the same three choices that you’ve had for close to 20 years that Ohioans will have this November.
Frank LaRose: (15:14)
Thank you so much for the opportunity to go through all that and I look forward to the questions that you all have for me.
Frank LaRose: (15:33)
Frank LaRose: (15:33)
Frank LaRose: (15:36)
Thanks for coming.
Speaker 1: (15:37)
You’ve probably seen these letters that have been sent to Ohioans, unsolicited absentee ballot information. Obviously Ohioans are very skeptical of what they get in the mail this close to election day. Can you set the record straight on whether or not these are legit, whether people should be filling them out. Do you agree with the companies that are sending these out that are not actually coming from the state?
Frank LaRose: (16:03)
Yeah. So thanks for the question. And the good news is we have had a lot of people asking us are these legitimate. I think that Ohioans are switched on to thinking about the security of their elections. I don’t know the specific ones that you’re holding, but there were a couple last week that started hitting. We looked at them. It is the official form that they’re sending out.
Frank LaRose: (16:23)
Of course, what people should be watching for is the official voter registration form that comes from our office, and that’s going to be coming around Labor Day weekend. Again, we’re encouraging Ohioans to fill that out. We know that political campaigns and political parties are going to be sending things like this out. We would ask them to coordinate with us and make sure that they have the right form that they’re using. Again, Ohioans can print their own form at voteohio.gov.
Frank LaRose: (16:47)
And so the specific ones that you’re holding, I can’t verify, but I know that as long as it has the right information on it, and I think there’s one called like the Voter Information Project or something like that, and I’m familiar with that one, yeah. And so yeah, we checked them. Those are legitimate absentee ballot request forms. You can fill that out. You can go to voteohio.gov if you ever have any questions, and compare the form on our website to the form that you’re receiving in the mail. And again, around Labor Day weekend, every registered voter in the state will be getting one of those forms from us.
Speaker 1: (17:21)
Rick Rubin: (17:23)
Hi, Rick Rubin from The Columbus Dispatch.
Frank LaRose: (17:26)
Rick Rubin: (17:26)
I wanted to go back to the issue of postage pay. So the RRC specifies that board of elections can’t pay for postage and House Bill 680 would have blocked you from paying for postage, but obviously it didn’t pass. Why do you believe you need General Assembly authority to pay for that postage rather than just going to the spending approval board?
Frank LaRose: (17:51)
So the question relates to the legality of postage paid. Obviously the boards of elections are prohibited from providing a postage paid for returning their envelopes by the Ohio revised code. No secretary of state has taken it on themselves to provide that postage paid because that interpretation had always been that that prohibition also exists for the secretary, even though it’s not specifically annotated as such.
Frank LaRose: (18:15)
And that’s why I believe, and I can’t speak for them, why the General Assembly chose to put that provision in 680, by the way, a provision that I would prefer comes out of the bill or that never gets passed. But I think it’s clear that the General Assembly believes that the question of whether postage should be allowed or not is one that’s under their purview and that’s why I’ve asked them to do it.
Frank LaRose: (18:38)
Listen, if we get additional federal funding, I’m still going to try to get postage paid. I’m going to come to the controlling board and ask them for the opportunity, and that would be that legislative authority that I would get through the controlling board. I think that it’s a good thing for Ohio to have that, but again, I’m not going to act outside the law and subject Ohio to a bunch of litigation on this, particularly when I think that that’s litigation and we would like to lose. It’s not something that…
Frank LaRose: (19:08)
Listen, you don’t want a secretary of state that’s unencumbered by the rule of law. I serve in an executive position. I enjoyed being a legislator for eight years, but I’m not a legislator now. My job is to carry out the laws of the state of Ohio. And you want a secretary of state who is bound by the rule of law, and that’s exactly why I’ve asked my team, and you can ask our lawyers, I’ve asked them, “Is there any way that I have the authority to provide postage paid?” And they’ve told me unanimously that they don’t believe I have the legal authority to do that. Thanks, Rick.
Rick Rubin: (19:40)
Tom Bosco: (19:40)
Tom Bosco with ABC6.
Frank LaRose: (19:41)
Thank you, Tom.
Tom Bosco: (19:43)
Can you tell us, do you have any idea how many votes, how many ballots come in after the 10 day window? And do you consider them lost or people who just sent them in too late? And is that a problematic number?
Frank LaRose: (19:56)
Yeah. So the question relates to ballots that arrive after the 10 day window. Of course, we know that Ohioans that send in their ballot and it’s postmarked by November 2nd, that’s a legal ballot. It has up to 10 days to arrive. And traditionally, those 10 days have been perfectly adequate. We saw this situation in Butler County back in the spring where there were ballots that arrived after that deadline, a large number of them. And I wrote a very harsh letter to the US Postal Service about the mistake that they had made, but the law is also clear that after 10 days, you cannot accept those.
Frank LaRose: (20:28)
We don’t have the exact number. What we want to do is try to minimize that number, right? We want to encourage Ohioans to not procrastinate. Of course we can give you the numbers from past elections. I’m sure that’s something that the boards of elections keep track of, but it has been a minor problem in the past. It’s not been something that we’ve seen large numbers of, but what I want to do is make sure that it doesn’t become a larger problem this year.
Frank LaRose: (20:48)
And again, the good news is we think that more Ohioans are going to vote by mail this year than have ever voted before. Listen, I think that 2020 will be the highest turnout presidential election we’ve ever seen in our state’s history, and I think it’ll also be the highest rate of absentee voting and the highest rate of early voting. And so a lot of Ohioans are trying it for the first time, right? Hopefully it forms a good habit where they start voting absentee for future elections, but we want to make sure that they have the education necessary, have the information necessary to not make mistakes like waiting until the last minute.
Frank LaRose: (21:18)
Procrastination is a terrible idea as it relates to this election. Ohio voters should return their absentee ballot requests as soon as they get them in the mail and they should cast their ballot and mail it to the board of elections as soon as they receive it.
Speaker 2: (21:31)
A lot has been said about the security of mail-in voting and absentee voting, especially by President Trump. Are you concerned what that rhetoric does to the confidence of Ohio voters in the system and if it could deter some voters from taking advantage of those options that you are highly recommending?
Frank LaRose: (21:49)
Yeah. And so this is a question that I get a lot, and yes, I’m absolutely concerned when there is information that circulates that causes Ohioans to be fearful of the processes that we have. The good news is this. Although the President raises concerns that may be valid in other states, and again, the President has to be concerned with all 50 states, we focus on Ohio, the concerns that he raises are not valid here, right? The ideas, the concerns about things like ballot harvesting or inaccurate voter rolls causing dead people to be mailed ballots and that kind of thing, Ohio has really, over 20 years, gotten very good at doing vote by mail. Our boards of elections expect 20 to 25% in every election. Of course, that number is going to go much higher this year.
Frank LaRose: (22:34)
It’s something that Ohioans in both parties trust and should trust. It’s something that Ohioans have taken advantage of over the years and should continue to take advantage of over the years. And so I’ll be here to continue speaking truth about it. It’s okay to vote this way. It’s trustworthy to vote this way, and it’s something that Ohioans should take advantage of.
Speaker 3: (22:54)
How confident are you in the postal service? And obviously there are a lot of challenges that are going there and also concerns that are being raised. So how confident are you that the postal service will be up to the task for the election? And then also, have you decided how you’re personally going to vote?
Frank LaRose: (23:06)
Sorry, one more time [inaudible 00:23:06]?
Speaker 3: (23:07)
Have you decided how you’re going to personally vote this November?
Frank LaRose: (23:10)
Yeah. So the first question about the US Postal Service, they’re not moving as fast as they normally would. And I think that we know that. This is, again, why procrastination is a bad idea, but it’s also why it’s great that Ohio has things like being able to track your ballot. So when you mail it in, you can go to voteohio.gov and you can track it and make sure that it was received by your county board of elections, and it’s a good thing to do.
Frank LaRose: (23:35)
We have and continue to ask the postal service tough questions and to hold them accountable. We had a representative, a senior executive from the US Postal Service on our Ready For November call. As you know, we do those just about every week with our county boards of elections. And this is the individual that’s in charge of elections mail for the postal service. And so we were asking him the tough questions about this. And I’ve also talked with members of our Ohio congressional delegation.
Frank LaRose: (24:01)
Now, back in the spring, what we found was that we had some success with the postal service implementing a few policies that they were willing to do after we reached out to them. One of them was moving, sorting back into Ohio. We know in Northwest Ohio, particularly in the Toledo area, that they’d been shipping their mail to Detroit to be sorted. That was causing an additional delay. So they moved the sorting for that period of time back into Ohio. They committed that they would implement what they called an all clear procedure where a postal supervisor or a postal inspector, which is their law enforcement body, would go through their sorting facility on a daily basis and watch for that official elections related mail, and make sure that that’s gotten out the door and not sort of a box of things stuck over in the corner or what have you.
Frank LaRose: (24:49)
Even the design of the mail pieces is important, and this is where we’ve redesigned the envelopes that we’re using, for example. And we’ve gotten that template out to the boards of elections so that they could begin printing those and working with the postal service to make sure that that election mail logo is prominent on there, even a big, bold stripe down the side so that it’s visible as it’s moving through the sorting facilities and that kind of thing.
Frank LaRose: (25:13)
So those are some of the ideas that we’ve been putting into place in Ohio. But again, the bottom line is don’t wait.
Frank LaRose: (25:19)
You asked the question about how I’m going to vote. I anticipate Lauren and I will vote by mail as we have in the past. And I anticipate that we will get our absentee ballot request form from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office just like close to 8 million other Ohioans will be, and we’re going to fill that out as soon as we get it. We’re not going to delay, not going to sit around on it, but we’re going to mail it in. And then, I anticipate the Franklin County Board of Elections will probably send us our ballot in that very first traunch, probably October 6th when they send out the first batch of them, and we’re going to get it sent in as soon as we can.
Speaker 4: (25:50)
Hi, Secretary. So you mentioned lawsuits are a fact of life in this job. All your predecessors have been sued. They’ve won some, they’ve lost some. Who exactly do you think would sue you if you expanded-
Speaker 5: (26:03)
Who exactly do you think would sue you if you expanded curbside voting and accessibility, or if you added postage to ballots and did some of these things that you say violate the law. And is there any concern on your part that litigation on that would harm the Republican Party or the Trump campaign should they be those who sued?
Frank LaRose: (26:23)
Well, I’m going to answer the last part first. I think it’s clear in the way that I’ve conducted myself in this office, that I have no favoritism to one side or another. Listen, I was elected as a Republican, and I generally believe in the principles and candidates that my party puts forward and then that’s, who I am as a person. But when I came into this office, I put on the referees jersey. I serve as the chief elections officer for my home state, our beloved State of Ohio and to me, that’s so much bigger than politics. The sanctity of our vote is so much bigger than politics. And so genuinely, no conversation at our office ever starts with how does this impact one party or another, it’s just not how we think, and by the way, that’s not how boards of elections think either.
Frank LaRose: (27:08)
I’ve been amused as I’ve gone to all 88 boards of elections, you can’t tell often who the Republicans and who the Democrats are, and somebody will have a donkey on their desk or an elephant on their desk or their Reagan quote, or their Kennedy quote on the wall or whatever else. It’s just it’s not something that people bring up a partisanship to generally. As it relates to who would sue us, I mean, listen, there are a whole list of people that have a history of litigation. And by the way, I’m happy to say that I think we’ve been able to reduce some of that by just building relationships. Some of these groups that have a history of litigation with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, I’ve reached out and we sit down frequently. We’d get coffee back when that was possible, now we meet online or what have you.
Frank LaRose: (27:50)
But we’ve built a dialogue with these organizations and it started with a simple premise. I was elected by the State of Ohio to protect the voting rights of 8 million registered voters. These organizations have a history of fighting for civil rights and voting rights, so we should have a working dialogue. So I don’t want to assume who the litigants would be, but I think that there’s a cast of characters on both the right and the left that are always poised to file a lawsuit any time they think that something may give a minor advantage to one side or the other, and that’s usually overstated by the way. I believe Ohioans are going to vote and cast their ballots and be responsible about how they vote, and the minor changes to elections administration really don’t usually have the kind of partisan impact that people anticipate they will.
Speaker 5: (28:39)
Frank LaRose: (28:39)
Laura Bischoff: (28:41)
Mr. Secretary, it’s Laura Bischoff, Daily News. You mentioned that you asked for an opinion from the attorney general on drop boxes, what happened with your opinion?
Frank LaRose: (28:49)
Yeah, we were through that request, they just hadn’t gotten it done yet. And so I’d have to refer you to his office for why they hadn’t gotten it done yet. But we asked them for that opinion, we thought it was wise to have a sort of affirm legal footing for any kind of decision that we were going to make. But again, with less than three months until the election, we couldn’t wait any longer, I’d needed to give certainty to the County Board of Elections.
Laura Bischoff: (29:15)
And then just a couple of follow ups on poll workers, I mean the poll workers work 6:00 AM to about 8:00 PM, it’s a 14 hour day. It’s pretty daunting for a lot of people. Have you given thought to giving an option for maybe splitting shifts into half days, and also you mentioned in your handout that you’re considering asking them to offer Curbside Voting. I think that would probably be a big administrative demand on poll workers, because they’d have to have a [inaudible 00:29:43] person team go to the curb. How are you going to manage that?
Frank LaRose: (29:46)
A couple of things, Curbside Voting has actually been a component of Ohio’s elections administration for a long time. It was put in place initially to help ADA voters actually, before there was an ADA, right? When many public buildings did not have the kind of accessibility that they should have and so the procedure has been in place for a long time, it’s well understood. I think that we could see increased usage of it this year. And by the way, if somebody has opted not to take advantage of early voting, has opted not to take advantage of absentee voting, and they just want to come to the polls on election day, but they are themselves vulnerable or they have a known exposure or they themselves are not feeling well. We would prefer that they do this versus coming into the polling location.
Frank LaRose: (30:34)
And so it’s manageable, I’ve offered the idea that County Boards of Elections could have volunteers that could be runners. Of course, the actual handling of ballots and bringing it out has to be done by a Republican and a Democratic poll worker, as always is the case. But you could have the local Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, that volunteer to be the runner that goes inside and says, “Hey, somebody here that needs to vote curbside.” We’ve offered to the Boards of elections, they may want to post a sign that says, “Call or text this number,” or what have you, if you want to vote curbside. So it’s something that’s been around for a long time, it’s just another way that we’re trying to be as creative as we can, as it relates to making sure that it’s safe and secure.
Frank LaRose: (31:19)
Poll worker split shifts. We put it along day too, I know all of you do on election day, it’s a long day for everybody. This is the way it’s run in Ohio for our 217 years of history as a state, and I would say that I’m open to it, it’s not something that we’re going to change before the presidential election. That would be not a responsible choice to make that change it and by the way, it would require a change in law. It’s not something I can do autonomously, it would have to be done as a change in law. The concern, and I can tell you that the Ohio Association of Elections Officials is very concerned about this and they have very vocal in the past as they do not want to see this change. Because right now it’s very difficult to recruit 35,000 poll workers for election day, the moment you say you can work split shifts. Now we need to recruit 70,000 because everybody’s going to want to do that of course.
Frank LaRose: (32:13)
If given that option, who would say no? An idea that I have, that I may want to propose in the future and I would have to come over here and do it in the General Assembly would be something like, if you recruit one person, then you get the opportunity to work a split shift. That would be an interesting idea for the future and it would sort of bring with it a recruitment component. So basically I’ll work the morning and I’ll recruit a friend or family member to do the afternoon shift. That’s one idea, certainly not something that we’re going to try in the middle of a presidential election.
Laura Bischoff: (32:45)
Frank LaRose: (32:46)
Speaker 6: (32:47)
Quite a few of the things that you say that you want to do and that people are calling for you say, need to be done by the legislature. It looks like they won’t be back until mid September, do you think that’s enough time to get any of these things done before the 2020 election?
Frank LaRose: (33:01)
Not many of them. And I said back in the spring, I said, “If we’re still talking about this in mid summer or late summer, then the legislature has made a grave mistake.” And so here we are in August, and we’re still talking about these things, I believe that they’ve made a big mistake. But again, that said, I don’t want to focus on the negative, we have a fundamentally sound and if you compare us to other states, the options that Ohioans have, are very good and the chances to cast a ballot are very good. And then there’s something for everybody regardless of your health situation or lifestyle in the four weeks of early voting, four weeks of absentee voting, and in-person election day voting.
Frank LaRose: (33:37)
The changes that I’ve been asking for likely at this point, couldn’t be implemented, certainly something like the online absentee ballot requests, it’s probably too late to get that stood up the testing and the lead time that our IT team would need. And so I’m going to keep pushing that, hopefully we’re back in this building and in November and December of working with the legislature to try to get some of those things done then, and I’ll push for it the. The idea about postage paid, I think that we possibly could get that done, but again, the clock’s taking on that. And once absentee ballot start going out on October 6th, it’s effectively too late at that point, because you can’t have some voters getting postage paid and other voters not. And certainly there would need to be some lead time ahead of that for printing and preparation and everything else.
Frank LaRose: (34:20)
So it’s unfortunate that the inaction by the legislature has put us in this position, because what we were saying all along is that we really need a few minor tweaks to make Ohio’s election the best it can be this November. The thing that continues to really worry me is that Saturday deadline, I think that we don’t want to encourage procrastination and when the law tells people, they can wait until Saturday to request a ballot, it’s just a very bad precedent. So maybe that could get fixed, but really it’s too late for a lot of those changes. And remember also that, unless they get an emergency clause, we’re past the 90 effective window.
Speaker 6: (34:56)
Frank LaRose: (34:58)
You said that you’ve encouraged voters to wear a mask. Did you ever consider about mandating that and if the pandemic does get worse closer to election, how flexible are these polling stations to go to a plan B?
Frank LaRose: (35:12)
Yeah. So first of all, the situation that we’re setting up as it relates to polling location, design and policies anticipates that we’re still in a position where the pandemic is very much a concern, right? And so we’re preparing for that, I don’t want to say worst case scenario, but we’re planning for what health professionals tell us. And by the way, I’m not an epidemiologist, neither are you, we’re listening to the people that have PhD after their name, who have devoted their lives to this science. And that’s why right at the top of our health guidance that we’re issuing it says, “In collaboration with CDC,” “In collaboration with the Ohio Department of Health.”
Frank LaRose: (35:51)
So the polling locations will be a safe and secure environment, a healthy environment for every voter, regardless of whether there’s a spike in the virus or not. I would say this, if you are immuno-depressed, if you are concerned because you’re in that vulnerable population. If you fall into those risk factors, don’t wait, just request your absentee ballot, vote by mail or if you really want to hand it to an election’s official personally, instead of handing it to the US postal service, then go and take advantage of early voting. Don’t wait until election day, but of course that option will be available. And Kevin, what was your second question, I apologize.
About the masks, whether or not-
Frank LaRose: (36:29)
Masks, yes. So voters are citizens and citizens are being directed by their state and local authorities to wear masks. In most cases, it’s a requirement and that said the poll workers are not there to enforce mask requirements, they can’t do that and nobody can be turned away. That’s why we put what I think is a very thoughtful kind of a flow or deescalation in place. I mean, of course the first choice is you should vote by mail, the second choice is you should vote early. If you haven’t taken advantage of either one of those, if you show up at a polling place and you see the sign on the door that says you should wear a mask and you decide to disregard that you’ll be greeted at the door and you’ll be asked if you would like to vote curbside so that we can try to handle that outside.
Frank LaRose: (37:17)
And if you say this is my right, I’m here to vote and I insist on it, well, then we’re going to keep everybody else away from you, we’re going to carefully hand you your ballot, check your ID and get you back out the door with an, “I voted,” sticker and send you on your way. I mean, we’re not going to turn people away and I don’t think we want our polling locations or poll elections officials to be serving as the enforcement mechanism for masks. It’s good manners, right? I think some people were laughing when I compared it to picking your nose. I mean, we don’t need to have police out there telling people not to pick their nose, it’s just gross, it’s rude, it’s bad manners, so we know to do it, right? Walking into a polling place without wearing a mask is rude, it’s bad manners. You should not be doing it. But if you choose to, well, then we’re going to let you cast your ballot and send you on your way.
Frank LaRose: (38:05)
Thank you. Andrew, you got another one, now that I brought up nose picking?
Speaker 7: (38:11)
Do you want to go first, that’s fine.
Speaker 8: (38:13)
Doesn’t matter [inaudible 00:00:38:13].
Speaker 7: (38:14)
Yeah. I think you’ve been addressing this generally, but what you were saying today is that the election will take place in November 3rd, that people in vote by mail and these are just things that are kind of true and aren’t necessarily controversial. Why do you feel the need to basically restate this stuff right now?
Frank LaRose: (38:30)
Yeah, it’s unfortunate, but there’s an incredible human capacity for inventiveness as it relates to election conspiracies. People come up with all kinds of wazoo things and then share them on the internet and people unthinkingly just sort of share them and pass them along. And that’s why when I’m out, and when I was down in Fayette County or last week when I was up in Toledo, people come up and ask me, “So what’s going to happen this November?’ And again, it’s hard for me not to be incredulous when people ask me that because the same things are going to happen that have happened every year. We hold-
Frank LaRose: (39:03)
Will ask me that because the same things are going to happen that have happened every year we hold an election and that means that Ohioans are going to have all these choices. But the reason I’m restating these things is to make it loud and clear to Ohioans so that they know, and they can hear it directly from the person who has taken the oath to serve as their chief elections officer, that in-person voting is going to be available on November 3rd, that four weeks of early voting, four weeks of absentee voting are going to be available to every registered voter in the state of Ohio. I think some people need to hear that and it needs to be reinforced. Sometimes we, who work in and around state government, may take those kinds of things for granted, but out there in the rest of Ohio, there are questions about this and it’s something that we need to make sure that there are no questions, that people understand exactly what the scenario is going to be.
Frank LaRose: (39:42)
And by the way, I should mention that I’ve had great conversations with the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor and the administration. They recognize that what happened back in March is a unique situation where Ohio had a scenario where we were set to conduct a primary right as every state in the nation was declaring an emergency. They recognize that primaries are very different from generals and they recognize that the general election day is set in stone. It’s not changing and there will be election day in-person voting.
Speaker 3: (40:11)
So what role do you think elected officials play in kind of promoting this, whether it’s the president floating moving the election day, or whether it’s the governor moving Ohio’s election day 24 hours before supposed to happen earlier this year?
Frank LaRose: (40:24)
As we’ve seen elected officials should be held to a high standard. And I think that it’s incumbent upon any elected official, any person who is a person of responsibility. I mean, members of the media, I’d say, fall into the same category. We are centers of influence. The fact that we get to stand here and have press conferences like this mean that people listen to us and respect our opinions. And so we need to be a source of accurate information and truth. I think that sort of fanning the flames and engaging in hyperbole is irresponsible. It’s irresponsible when it’s done by Republicans. It’s irresponsible when it’s done by Democrats. I think you all know that I’ve been consistent about calling it out and calling it what it is.
Frank LaRose: (41:06)
Listen, if you are making Ohioans fearful about elections, you’re kind of doing our foreign adversaries work for them. They want to diminish the credibility of our elections by causing people to call into question whether a elections are really a valid way to run a country. We’re not going to let that happen here. And I’m not going to let Ohioans be subjected to disinformation, whether it’s coming from a foreign adversary or whether it’s coming from a domestic American politician. I’m going to set the record straight because the best antidote to lies is to tell the truth and tell it often and tell it loud.
Speaker 3: (41:38)
Frank LaRose: (41:38)
Thank you. Yeah.
Speaker 9: (41:40)
Can you talk about the process of selecting polling locations? There was a little bit of a scramble earlier in the spring or before the primary, because some were in nursing homes and then there’s also the concern of consolidating them. Some people say they don’t want to see what happened in Milwaukee happen in Ohio where suddenly you had to consolidate a hundred polling locations into one. Can you kind of talk about-
Frank LaRose: (42:04)
It’s important for people to understand that the selection of polling locations is a thoroughly local matter that’s conducted by your bipartisan county board of elections, two Republicans and two Democrats who have the sworn responsibility of running elections in that county. And Ohio is a very diverse state. What works in Columbiana County or in Coshocton doesn’t work in Cleveland or in Cuyahoga County. It’s really up to those local elections officials to choose, those board of elections members, to choose where those polling locations are going to be. And it’s again, we’ve historically seen 4,000 polling locations staff by 35,000 election day volunteers. The hard reality is, if you don’t have 35,000 election day volunteer poll workers, you will not have all 4,000 polling locations open. The thing I’m trying to force the boards of elections to do, the thing I am forcing the boards of elections to do is to come to that tough reality right now, to realize if they’re going to have to consolidate polling locations, that’s something that cannot happen in October.
Frank LaRose: (43:06)
The emergency situation, again, my heart goes out to our friends in Milwaukee because they had to deal with this as the pandemic was happening. And they had to figure out on the fly when they were doing. We don’t have that necessity now, we can plan ahead for this. And I’m telling the boards of elections, know how many coworkers you’re going to have, get their firm commitments, recruit as many as you can to backfill that. But then at a certain point, and that point happens in, really, late September. You need to reach that hard reality of, all right, here’s how many poll workers we have. Here’s how many polling locations we can staff with that number of poll workers, and then make those decisions about where those locations will be. As again, we’ve made clear, polling locations are not allowed to happen at senior residential facilities or healthcare facilities. Obviously that’s kind of a clear prerogative that we have dictated to the boards of elections, that they may not put polling locations in those locations.
Frank LaRose: (44:01)
But listen, the decisions are made at the local level. I don’t want to see consolidation unnecessarily, but what we really don’t want to see is last minute consolidation. That’s what we’re trying to avoid. Did I get all your questions?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, is there any rules or guidance that you’re going to put them though to alleviate any concerns is sometimes, like the African-American community will say they get unfairly targeted in those consolidations, and they’re the ones who have to all go to one place.
Frank LaRose: (44:30)
There are standards in place already for how that works. I can tell you that again, the most important standard is that it’s a local decision with your bipartisan county boards of elections. And so there’s a reason why those are positions of responsibility that when county republican parties or county democratic parties recommend to me, who’s going to be serving on the board of elections, they take those recommendations very seriously, because you should have people that are in those positions that are going to be very thoughtful about this.
Frank LaRose: (44:59)
But as far as mandating to counties how they’re going to select polling locations, that’s not something where we’re going to do. I will tell you this, in many cases, the best polling locations are government buildings, such as schools. We have been working to make sure that schools know that this is something that they should make available. We’ve given schools the recommendation that they not have students in the building that day. I mean, that’s something that, again, they can plan for. We know when election day is, and you should plan your calendar not to, if you’re concerned about this, to not have students in the building on November 3rd, so that you can accommodate a polling location. All over the world, schools are used as polling locations. And that’s certainly the case in Ohio. We rely on schools very heavily.
Frank LaRose: (45:41)
There’s a movement nationally toward using large sports facilities for polling locations. I think that’s something that you backed here. Have you encouraged directly boards of elections to use those? And are you aware of any that have set up plans to use some of the facilities here?
Frank LaRose: (46:05)
Yeah, so I actually was named to the advisory board of More Than A Vote, which is the organization that LeBron James started. And so I serve on that with other secretaries of state, including the Michigan secretary of state and what we’re encouraging professional athletic teams to do is not only make facilities available, that’s a wonderful thing if they choose to do that. And we’ve really directed those kinds of conversations to the county board of elections because, for example, I think Cuyahoga County is going to put a few of their precincts at what used to be called Quicken Loans Arena. It’s now Rocket Mortgage Field House, I think. The names change frequently, but the decision about putting a few downtown precincts in that location is really up to the Cayuga County Board of Elections. And so what we’re really trying to focus on with them, and again, the facilities question is great. And I hope that in Hamilton County, I want to facilitate those conversations with the Hamilton County Board of Elections, with their professional sports teams and other places around the state here in Columbus, for example.
Frank LaRose: (47:07)
But what I’m really asking them to do is, listen, a lot of these organizations have respected voices. They’re athletes, they’re coaches, the broadcast professionals that work in and around these franchises. I want those folks to lend their voice to a few very important messages, sign up to be a poll worker, get registered to vote. Don’t delay, Cast your ballot right away, that kind of thing. So that’s the kind of stuff that we’ll be doing with them. But I do believe that the Cayuga County Board of Elections is using the basketball arena there for a polling location. Thank you.
Frank LaRose: (47:42)
Anything else? Well, Hey, thank you so much, everybody. One thing I want to emphasize, I think this was useful, and I think I’d like to do this periodically. I don’t know whether monthly is the right opportunity, but it’s just is a way to make sure we’re getting accurate information out there about elections and to have the chance to answer your questions. And so I think that this’ll be our opportunity to do that in August, but I do want to do it frequently leading up to election day, at least monthly. So thank you so much, everybody. Take care.