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Ohio's elections chief seeks $1.25M to mail unsolicited absentee-ballot applications in 2016


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's elections chief wants state lawmakers to set aside more than $1 million for his office to send unsolicited absentee-ballot applications to voters ahead of the next presidential election.

The funding request comes after the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a law last year imposing greater control over such mailings in the political swing state.

The law bars county elections boards from mailing unsolicited applications. It permits the secretary of state to send them for general elections, only if the Legislature appropriates the money for it.

Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has twice mailed the unsolicited applications statewide using federal dollars from the Help America Vote Act. But his office says the federal money is not available for 2016. It cost about $1.5 million to send the applications in 2012 and nearly $985,000 in 2014.

Husted is asking the Legislature for $1.25 million to continue to fund the statewide mailings in 2016.

Matt Damschroder, assistant secretary of state, told a legislative panel last Tuesday that during the last presidential election, about a third of Ohio voters cast their ballots before Election Day, primarily by mail, which helped the state avoid long lines at the polls.

Damschroder said the perennial battleground Ohio will see increased attention in 2016 as it hosts at least one presidential debate and the Republicans hold their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland.

"In the grand scheme of things, $1.25 million is a small price to pay to ensure that when all eyes are on Ohio, we deliver another smooth Presidential Election," he said in written testimony.

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