Ohio elections chief: Precincts can't take absentee ballots
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio law does not permit voters to return absentee ballots at their precincts on Election Day, the state's elections chief is cautioning amid a misinformation campaign around the security of voting machines that's urging them to do so.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said those voters who heed advice from a prominent national group of Republican election deniers and hold onto their paper ballots until Nov. 8 must deliver them to their county board of elections office. Poll workers at precinct-level voting locations cannot accept them, he said.
“This is why it's dangerous for people who don't know what they're talking about to be dispensing bad elections-related advice to people," he said in an Associated Press interview Tuesday. "Because if someone is telling voters to take their absentee ballot to their polling location on Election Day, they're effectively instructing them how to disenfranchise themselves.”
LaRose said that possibility has caused concern among county election officials.
The GOP activists — including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — echo lies that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump and are urging GOP voters not to use the U.S. mail or a voting machine to cast their votes. Instead, they have encouraged them to fill out a paper absentee ballot and return it in person at the last minute.
The plan is based on unfounded conspiracy theories that fraudsters will manipulate voting systems to rig results for Democrats once they have seen how many Republican votes have been returned early. There has been no evidence of any such widespread fraud, nor that the 2020 election was stolen.
LaRose encouraged Ohioans to seek reliable sources of information — such as his office's website, the website for their county board of elections and reports from reputable news organizations — as they make plans to vote.
He said simply mailing an absentee ballot is the easiest path for voters who have requested one. For those who have concerns about the U.S. Postal Service, his office has set up an online ballot tracking tool.
Secure ballot drop boxes, one located at each of Ohio's 88 county boards of elections, are another option, he said. Those offices also will accept absentee ballots in person until 7:30 p.m. on Election Night.
If a voter who has requested an absentee ballot changes their mind on Election Day and decides to vote in person at their precinct, they will be allowed to do so — but they will have to vote by provisional ballot, said LaRose spokesperson Rob Nichols.
LaRose is up for reelection Nov. 8. He faces Democrat Chelsea Clark, a small business owner and city council member in suburban Cincinnati, and Terpsehore “Tore” Maras, a conservative podcaster and election denier who is running as an independent.