TOLEDO, Ohio — Ohio Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, and Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati, urged Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Wednesday to release his elections plans to reach Black voters and release his budget for the $23 million in federal funds granted to the state
In a letter addressed to LaRose, Hicks-Hudson and Ingram stated the secretary has failed to take bold action to address the needs of Black voters who are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
"You claim to lack authority to take action to help the Black Ohioans we represent. Meanwhile, you have found authority to again purge infrequent voters, something that’s not required but merely permitted under state law," the letter read. "You’ve found authority to do a state tour of craft breweries to do voter outreach to the IPA demographic, but we never passed a law authorizing or funding this road trip."
Hicks-Hudson, who is a former Toledo mayor, and Ingram were referencing a partnership between the secretary's office and the Ohio Craft Beer Association. The secretary took a tour of an Ohio brewery back in July as part of an effort to encourage eligible Ohioans to register to vote.
A spokesperson for LaRose's office said the secretary's efforts to engage minorities have gone to lengths never seen before. They went on to note initiatives such as the Diversity and Empowerment Council and a partnership with the Urban League, a nonpartisan civil rights organization, aimed at recruiting poll workers and registering voters.
After the council was announced last Wednesday by LaRose's office, many Ohio community leaders and activists came out to express support for the initiative.
Hicks-Hudson and Ingram's letter goes on to request the secretary to breakdown how the more than $23 million the federal government has granted to Ohio is being spent.
In June, the secretary's office published a press release, saying Ohio's share of federal CARES Act funds designated for the elections summed $12.8 million and that 87% of that money would be sent directly to county board of elections across the state.
Additionally, the lawmakers requested the secretary facilitate online applications for absentee ballots, which they say the law does not specify that applications must be by mail only.
"Many of our constituents have canceled their Internet service after suffering job loss and a hit to their household budgets. But this online option would still benefit everyone by reducing mailed paper applications and relieving pressure on the Postal Service and election officials," the letter read.
LaRose's spokesperson said the secretary has long supported making online ballot requests available and has even introduced legislation that would make it possible as a state senator. But they added the legislature has to move forward with the bill.
You can read the letter in its entirety here.