COLUMBUS – Secretary of State Jon Husted today spoke to nearly 500 elections officials from around the state during the opening session of the 2012 Ohio Association of Elections Officials (OAEO) Winter Conference.
Secretary Husted focused much of his remarks on preparations currently underway for the 2012 election cycle. One item of note highlighted by the Secretary is the statewide absentee ballot application that will be mailed to all registered Ohio voters for the general election.
Regarding the statewide mailing, Secretary Husted remarked, “We are going to make it easier than ever before to vote in 2012. Each registered voter in the state will receive an absentee voter application in the mail – essentially creating a voting booth at every kitchen table in Ohio.”
At present, the statewide mailing of absentee ballot applications is expected to occur in early August. Secretary Husted is asking all counties to work with his office to have voter information as up to date as possible by the 4th of July so that as many Ohio voters as possible will be included as part of the mailing.
Secretary Husted also addressed concerns about voter suppression and voter fraud that will likely surface during the upcoming year and his administration’s commitment to preventing both concerns.
“You are going to hear a lot of hyperbole about voter fraud from one side and voter suppression from the other. Let me be clear – our aim is to effectively balance ease of voting with protecting the integrity of the ballot,” Secretary Husted stated.
Other issues Secretary Husted addressed during his speech included improving outreach efforts to military and overseas voters, outlining the uniform standards he’s directed boards to follow for casting and counting ballots and extending his appreciation to boards of elections members and staff for their hard work during the 2011 election cycle.
The full text of the Secretary’s speech has been included below.
Secretary of State Husted OAEO Remarks
Welcome and thank you for a successful 2011. I would like to personally thank the officers of the OAEO for the invitation as we ready ourselves for 2012 – Dale Fellows, Llyn McCoy, Karla Herron, Jody Beall O’Brien, and Beth Ann Snyder. I also want to thank Aaron Ockerman for his work.
Our office has adjusted well, but we really miss Pat Wolfe, who has been on an extended leave to care for her husband, we look forward to her return. I also want to thank and recognize another person on my staff who has really helped to keep things running quietly and behind the scenes, Laura Pietenpol.
The last time we were together as a group for the summer conference we were all eagerly anticipating action by the legislature that would modernize the election law to support more secure, efficient and effective elections. If you recall, we hoped to move the primary to May as we anxiously awaited action on congressional redistricting to be completed.
I think it’s safe to say it didn’t turn out like any of us hoped.
A referendum on the election reforms in HB 194 puts into to question if and when we implement those reforms and a combative and prolonged redistricting process brought us maps at the 11th hour and a March primary.
What we need in 2012 is more stability and less drama.
As a result I will encourage the legislature to repeal and replace HB 194. I want the legislature to repeal HB 194 and start over after the 2012 election (or if they pass it this year, the effective date should be post 2012 General Election). No more mid-stream changes.
A 2012 referendum will confuse voters about the rules. We don’t need to confuse voters about the rules governing the election by debating an elections law referendum during the presidential elections.
That is not all that is on my reform agenda.
I will also aggressively push for a change to the apportionment process.
How we draw legislative and congressional maps has to change if we are to change the culture of our politics and government and I look forward to working with reform-minded legislators and advocates from both parties to fix this broken system.
Well-Run 2011 General Election
Congratulations and thank you to ALL OAEO members on a smooth November 2011 election. We had no major issues despite contentious issues on ballot.
More than 3.6 million voters participated, virtually without incident. It was one of the highest turnouts in the number of voters since 1940.
2011 was a success because the attention was focused where it should always be—on n candidates and their ideas and the issues and their merits--not on the elections process itself. This is a success we want to replicate and build upon. This will take a lot of pre-planning and hard work on our parts between now and then.
As election officials, we must assure the people of America that our nation will not again experience the nightmare of the 2000 presidential election. If it is a close election, it is likely that the next president of the United States will be determined by the outcome of elections in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and OHIO. These states will have the most scrutinized election systems in the world, and we in Ohio must and WILL meet every test.
In times of tight budgets for state and local officials, we will be working toward a higher standard using fewer resources. We must be efficient with limited resources, but also be clear with our county commissioners and legislators about what it takes to ensure a smooth 2012 election. I want to be helpful in any way I can to ensure elections are cost-effective and efficient but also fully-funded so we all can meet our statutory and constitutional responsibilities.
All of us in this room, along with the more than 40,000 poll workers across all 88 counties have a huge task ahead of us, but we will be ready and we will succeed.
It was once said “A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won't cross the street to vote in a national election.” Well, in Ohio they will not need to. We are going to make it easier to vote in 2012 than ever before in Ohio as every registered voter in the state will receive an absentee voter application in the mail – essentially creating a voting booth at every kitchen table in Ohio.
Absentee Voting by Mail – Statewide Mailing Update
This statewide mailing ensures uniformity from county to county and will help reduce the chance of long lines at the polls.
- Mailing will go out in early August.
- We ask that all counties work with us to have voter information as up to date as possible by the 4th of July so that we can include as many Ohio voters as possible in the mailing.
- We are also going to be using that July 4th deadline in our voter education efforts to encourage Ohio voters to do what they need to do – change their address and update information so that they will be ready to vote well in advance of November.
- Mailings will be personalized to each registered voter, including their voting address on file as of July 4th, and bar codes, where applicable.
This will make it easy for you to process applications and for us to ensure accuracy and security of the ballots that will eventually be mailed out in the 35 days before the November election.Though the mailing will come from the Secretary of State’s office and funded using available state HAVA funds, the applications will be returned directly to county boards of elections.
It is important that you start thinking now about how you will handle what will likely be a significant increase in absentee ballots by mail, and I encourage you to call and work with secretary of state elections staff as you formulate your strategy.
2012 Prep – Provisional Ballots
In 2012, we can expect more voters, including many who may not have chosen to vote since the last Presidential election. Inevitably, that means more provisional ballots. Much of this can be solved by voters updating their address—wanting to make this process easier I will continue to push for on-line voter registration and change of address.
In the 2010 election:
- 105,000 provisional ballots were cast.
- Of those, 90% were counted.
- Nearly half of the remaining 10% were not counted because these individuals were not eligible Ohio voters – just what the system is designed to catch.
- It’s the small, but important five percent that has caused confusion and controversy.
This makes it all the more important that we use the time between now and November to be prepared. We must educate voters and remind them of their responsibilities: 1. To register 30 days before the election; 2. Keep information up to date; and 3. Bring identification with them to the polls on Election Day.
We must be vigilant in keeping the voter files up to date and providing good data to the statewide system that drives the tools many Ohioans will be using – the statewide voter lookup and polling place locator. Both can be found at www.MyOhioVote.com.
While things will always come up and we need to be nimble, I told you we’d work to put directives out early so you know the rules of the game and have the time to implement them.
On January 4th – two months before the primary and 10 months before the General – we established by directive, a uniform system for the casting and counting of provisional ballots in Ohio. We developed the form and then met with and shared our design with interest groups – receiving positive feedback. We prescribed a new form/envelope that streamlines the information you must collect and reduces the opportunity for mistakes. Many of you will be using this new form in March and all of you will do so in November. With the rules in place this early, you have plenty of time to familiarize yourselves and hopefully avoid costly and confusing disputes after the polls close.
Military and Overseas Voters
Through our Military Ready-To-Vote program, we have stepped up our communication with military and overseas voters to ensure they have everything they need to participate in the upcoming election.
The program uses e-mail and social media updates to ensure military and overseas voters know deadlines and procedures for requesting and voting their absentee ballots this year. A one-stop website at www.OhioMilitaryVotes.com provides a place where military personnel can get answers to their questions and download an FVAP form among other things.
Since we launched MRV in August, we’ve received applications from Ohioans in 25 different states and the District of Columbia, as well as Afghanistan, Guam, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain and the U.K.
We were also proud that Ohio was one of the first seven recipients of an Electronic Absentee Systems for Elections (EASE) grant made available by the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). The $1.8 million grant will enable Ohio military and overseas voters to better utilize technology to streamline the absentee voting process—from registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot, marking the ballot electronically and processing the printed ballots that will be returned to you at the county boards of elections. More information about the grant is available on our website.
We know that recruitment and education of precinct elections officials for the November election is high on your preparation list.
I will be traveling around the state in the next few months to do voter education and outreach, and help you as you encourage more Ohioans in your counties to get involved by becoming precinct elections officials or P.E.O.s.
We’ll be sending you recruitment materials in the next few weeks and we will be launching an online signup at www.PEOinOhio.com to collect information from potential PEOs, which we will then forward on to assist in your efforts.
Board Reorganizations and Oath of Office Ceremony
We will have many new faces on our county boards in 2012 as you go through board reorganizations with the county political parties. On February 27, we’ll be hosting an oath of office ceremony at the Statehouse for new and new and reappointed board members. We hope you all can make it down for that.
Summer Conference to Be Conducted Regionally
We have decided that instead of making you come to us, we’ll be coming to you for the summer elections officials conference. We are still working through the details (locations, dates and times), but will be scheduling these regional trainings for the month of June. These will be one full day, rather than three, so you can keep your focus on your 2012 preparations in your own counties.
Democracy is not something that happens just at election time, and it's not something that happens just with one event. It's an ongoing, building process. But it also ought to be a part of our culture, a part of our lives.
Unfortunately, there will be those who want to manufacture electoral chaos as part of their political strategy. We’ll be on guard against efforts to throw us off course by working together closely, anticipating problems, following the law and responding with good common sense.
You are going to hear a lot of hyperbole about voter fraud from one side and voter suppression from the other. Let me be clear – our aim is to effectively balance ease of voting with protecting the integrity of the ballot.
We will not allow voter suppression – in fact, we are making it easier than ever for Ohioans to participate in the 2012 election. They don’t even need to leave their homes.
And, we will not tolerate fraud. We will follow the law to guard against those who seek to game the system and work with local prosecutors and the Ohio Attorney General to actively pursue and prosecute those who engage in voter fraud at any level.
We have our work cut out for us, but I have confidence that all our work over the next 10 months will put us in the best position to run a good presidential election when all eyes will be on Ohio.
In closing I would encourage you to remember and to remind all who interact with the voters in your respective counties, that what you say and do is how our democracy is perceived by the people of Ohio.
If a young lady arrives in the office or at the polling booth a little confused, take a little extra time, smile and help her out. If you do, she will be more likely to enjoy the experience and come back the next time and be part of our democracy. And remember, this process seems easy to you, but to some voters this can all seem very intimidating. Treat them like a customer, let them know that they are welcome and we care. It is how we can do our part to make voting the uplifting experience it should be.
Thank you for your hard work.