FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COLUMBUS – Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today addressed election officials from across the state as the keynote speaker for the Ohio Association of Election Officials (OAEO) Winter Conference in Columbus.
During his address, the state’s Chief Elections Officer reminded the group of the important roll Ohio plays in national elections.
“As elections officials in the most hotly contested swing state in the nation, there can be no room for error – we must ensure our work is above reproach,” Secretary Husted said. “The good news is that by working together we have already done a lot to position our state as a leader for elections administration in the nation.”
During the speech, the Secretary announced a new, statewide effort to bolster poll worker recruitment. The program, “A Day for Democracy,” will be a comprehensive effort to involve schools, businesses, non-profit organizations and churches in recruiting more than 40,000 people to manage polling places on Election Day.
Secretary Husted also renewed his support for important legislative action to allow for online voter registration in Ohio as well as the Safe at Home initiative to protect victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking and other violent crimes by shielding their home address from public view.
The entirety of the Secretary’s remarks are available below.
For more information, please contact Joshua Eck at (614) 466-2729
Ohio Association of Elections Officials
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s Remarks
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Good afternoon and welcome to the 2016 Ohio Association of Election Officials Winter Conference.
It is always great to be in a room full of Republicans and Democrats when they are getting along and working together.
But I must address the issue that is hanging over all of us.
Let’s face it, as we look back over this last year and we look ahead to next year, we know there have been and will be conflicts and ups and downs.
We can be honest, we cheer hard for our respective teams and at times it can boil over in harsh words toward each other.
But when you have a lot of passion and much of your heart and soul invested in a cause it hurts to lose. We all want OUR team to win.
But I think with what has happened here lately it begs the question for you partisans: Which is worse – being a Browns fan or a Bengals fan?
Browns fans know at the beginning of the year that their team is not making the playoffs, but Bengals fans believe there is a chance only to have their hopes dashed by inexplicably losing in the first round every year?
Despite our teams letting us down, we do have a Super Bowl just around the corner, not the one in San Francisco, but the 2016 Presidential Election.
As Ohioans we are all in the big game. As elections officials we must first care about how the election is run before we care about who wins.
- 65 days until the Presidential Primary (3/15)
- 17 days until voting begins (1/30)
- 300 days until the Presidential General (11/8)
- 255 days until voting begins (9/24)
And for some of you, the special election to fill the 8th Congressional District will take place in between (6/7).
Amid certifying petitions, preparing ballots, recruiting poll workers, early voting, Election Day and the official canvass, elections officials in Ohio will spend nearly every day this year administering elections – this is not an exaggeration.
More simply put, there is a lot of work ahead of us.
Now, it would be easy to only focus on the tasks at hand, but we also need to ask ourselves what we are doing to ensure 2016 goes smoothly.
The answer is prepare, prepare, prepare!
As elections officials in the most hotly contested swing-state in the nation there can be no room for error. We must ensure that our work is above reproach.
Your work will be scrutinized like never before and it should be accomplished knowing that you are being watched by the world – along with the attorneys from the DNC and RNC, the presidential campaigns and many more.
By working together we have done a lot to position our state as a national leader in elections administration.
Our voter rolls are more accurate and up to date.
- We have complete records on more than 90% of voters, up from 20% in January 2011.
- Since January 2011, more than 440,000 deceased Ohioans verified and removed from voter rolls.
- Resolved more than 1.2 million duplicate registrations since January 2011.
- To date, contacted roughly 1.5 million voters to update information through National Change of Address Mailing and other efforts.
We have uniform days and hours for in-person absentee voting that ensures all voters are treated equally.
- Primary Election voters will have 211 hours over 4 weeks to vote in person (including 2 Saturdays, 1 Sunday and Election Day).
- General Election voters will have 220 hours over 4 weeks to vote in person (including 2 Saturdays, 2 Sundays and Election Day).
When it comes to absentee voting by mail, we will once again be sending all eligible voters an absentee ballot application ahead of the General Election in November.
The legislature has already appropriated funds and we will be working to get these applications in the mail by Labor Day.
I am also working with members of the General Assembly to make it easier to vote for victims of domestic abuse, human trafficking, stalking and other violent crimes.
The Safe at Home initiative will help these victims by allowing them to setup a confidential Post Office Box through the Secretary of State’s Office.
This will enable program participants to keep their actual location from being revealed to the public.
Currently, 38 states offer address confidentiality programs and it is time that Ohio joins them.
I want to take a moment here to thank each of you for all of the work you have done. As I said earlier, Ohio is a leader in elections administration because of the work we have done together.
While there is much to be proud of, there also remain areas for improvement, such as poll worker recruitment, better use of technologies like e-pollbooks and online voter registration, as well as addressing postmark issues on absentee ballots returned by mail.
Poll Worker Recruitment
While those of us here today do a lot to ensure elections in Ohio run smoothly, we can’t do it alone. In fact, on Election Day we need the help of roughly 40,000 additional people – poll workers.
Unfortunately, for many of you, finding enough qualified people to serve is a challenge.
That’s why I am happy to announce today that my office is launching a renewed effort to better assist boards of elections in recruiting poll workers.
This initiative, called “A Day for Democracy,” includes several components (Spirit of Patriotism):
- Outreach to major corporations and charitable organizations;
- Coordinated media events with county boards;
- Public Service Announcement campaign;
- Letters to the Editor;
- Social Media; and,
- Other promotional materials.
To date, our efforts have helped county boards of elections recruit more than 8,600 since April 2012.
During my first term, my office distributed more than $1.5 million in poll worker training funds and plan to invest additional funds later this year.
Poll worker recruitment and training is vital to delivering a problem-free election.
Better Use of Technology
Another area we want to continue to see improvement is in the use of technology – specifically online voter registration and e-pollbooks.
We already know that making it easier for voters to maintain their information online is popular given that more than 296,000 voters have updated their address using Online Change of Address system.
The next logical step, and one that is long overdue, is allowing Ohioans to register to vote online.
As I have done since becoming Secretary of State, I will continue to work to get this reform passed. The Ohio Senate recently passed SB 63 by a vote of 31-1 and the Ohio House is currently considering the bill, so talk your legislators about it.
Another important advancement in election technology is e-pollbooks.
These devices dramatically cut down on the check-in times for voters and help streamline the administrative process for all of you.
It’s for that reason that lawmakers included an appropriation in the recent budget to cover 85% of the cost of e-pollbooks for counties that choose to use them.
I thank the leadership in both chambers for helping to fund this technology.
Not every board here has begun using e-pollbooks, so for those of you still on the fence, consider the experiences your colleagues have had.
In Montgomery County, they cut the average check-in time at the polls by 80%, from 2-3 minutes to just 30 seconds.
Currently, 42 counties are using e-pollbooks.
As with any new technology, there is always a risk that problems can occur – the key is how you prepare and how you respond when problems occur.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections responded by taking ownership of their problems, identifying the issues that occurred, coming up with solutions and committing to a plan of action.
Their experiences present a learning opportunity for all of us and I hope you use it as part of your preparation.
Take the time to develop a detailed plan for deployment (this includes poll worker training and a back-up plan).
Despite the one recent setback on implementation, e-pollbooks have proven to be a valuable tool, benefiting both poll workers and voters. They help cut wait times and make voting even easier.
Absentee Ballot Postmark Issue
I’d like to spend just a few minutes discussing the absentee ballot issue that came to light in last year’s General Election concerning ballots cast by mail that arrived after Election Day without a postmark.
Under state law, which was enacted during my tenure as Speaker of the Ohio House, absentee ballots received after Election Day can only be counted if they are postmarked the by day before the election.
This lenient standard was created to accommodate voters so they were not negatively impacted by post office delays. It has worked well for many years, up until last November.
In that election, there were 1,523 absentee ballots (out of 435,458 cast) returned after Election Day by mail that did not have a postmark.
Under Ohio law, these ballots cannot be counted. This is troubling because some of those ballots were likely cast by voters who followed the law.
To be clear, under the United State Postal Service’s own policies these ballots should have received a postmark. So the fact that these ballots were disqualified is not the fault of the boards of elections or the voters.
The responsibility lies with the USPS.
Just because it is their responsibility does not absolve us from addressing the problem.
To get at the root of the problem, I met with USPS officials who offered a solution that they stated would fix the problem.
Upon further review by me and my staff, I became less convinced.
As my office continues to work on finding a solution that truly resolves the matter, I want to encourage each of you to take these next couple of days and discuss with each other possible solutions.
You will have the opportunity tomorrow morning to hear from and talk to USPS officials. They will be conducting a breakout session from 10:45 am – 11:30 am in Emerson A.
You need to attend and you need to ask questions to better understand the problem.
Ask why an oversized/flat envelope doesn’t work.
Ask why a letter sized envelope does – up until the point that it doesn’t.
Contemplate that if there is no clear USPS solution, should we pursue legislative action like changing the date by which absentee ballots must be received.
So, spend your morning talking to USPS officials then make sure you attend the afternoon session from 4:00 to 4:45 pm in this room for all attendees where my Assistant Secretary of State and Chief of Staff Matt Damschroder will be speaking to learn even more about this issue.
After you have processed all of that, talk to each other about possible solutions.
I welcome any suggestions or thoughts this group has for addressing the problem. I’m sure Aaron Ockerman will be more than happy to collect all of your ideas and then share them with me.
Regardless of what the solution is, my priority is to ensure that voters who follow law and do what they are supposed to do have confidence that their ballot will be counted.
I want to work with you on this issue; I don’t want to impose a solution. I feel responsible for finding a workable solution, but you have to engage as well.
Why does all of this matter? Because every vote matters.
Especially when you consider that in the last two years, 98 local issues and races either tied or were decided by a single vote.
There is work ahead of us, but Ohio will be ready for the 2016 elections because there is no alternative.
We must come together and work to ensure that once the polls close we can look the nation and world in the eye and say with confidence that we have run another smooth election.
Thank you for all you have done and all you will do this year.
God bless us in our work and God bless Ohio.