Ohio Secretary of State sent wrong Issue 1 ballot language to election offices

Local election offices say the correction cost them a little time, but they’re on schedule for the Aug. 8 vote

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office sent the wrong Issue 1 ballot language to county boards of election this month, but local elections officials say after minor adjustments, they’re on schedule for the Aug. 8 vote.

An email Tuesday from Chris Burnett, LaRose’s director of elections, apologizes to county-level officials for what Burnett called a “transcription error.”

“The corrected Sample Ballot that is attached contains the revised language for Issue 1 that was certified by the Ohio Ballot Board on June 13, 2023, specifically in the third bullet-point,” Burnett’s email says. “Boards must immediately revise their ballots, update the election management system, update the remote ballot marking system, and perform logic and accuracy testing.”

The issue was first reported by Cleveland.com.

Ohio voters will decide Aug. 8 whether to amend the Ohio Constitution, making citizen-led initiatives to change that Constitution much more difficult. While supporters argue the Constitution should be harder to amend, opponents say everyday citizens should retain that power as a check on a scandal-ridden, gerrymandered state legislature.

On June 12, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered a rewrite of the Issue 1 ballot language, saying parts were inaccurate and potentially misleading. The next day, the Ohio Ballot Board did the rewrite, and LaRose’s office sent updated (but incorrect) language to Ohio’s 88 county boards of election.

The specific error in the Secretary of State’s June 13 email was in the section about signature-gathering requirements for citizen-led initiatives.

Alisha Lampert, director of the Greene County Board of Elections, said her office had already printed a ballot “test deck” with the incorrect language and had programmed voting machines and begun testing them. But she said the correction was only a matter of “a couple hundred” dollars and a few hours of work.

Miami County Elections Director Laura Bruns said they were about two-thirds finished with their “logic and accuracy” testing, and starting over cost them about a day’s work.

Friday, June 23 was the deadline for election boards to send out the first set of absentee ballots, for uniformed military and overseas voters (UOCAVA).

Bruns said the Miami County Board of Elections was able to print those ballots in-house with the new, corrected language, meaning they had no problems meeting the UOCAVA deadline.

Montgomery County Elections Director Jeff Rezabek said they would also meet the Friday deadline.

Ohio Republicans had previously criticized August elections as undemocratic and moved to eliminate them. But they added this August vote on late notice, after it became clear that Democratic-aligned groups would try to change Ohio’s Constitution to enshrine protections for abortion.

This week, the Secretary of State’s office apologized for the added work their error created and said they would cover any costs required to make the change.

“We recognize the burden this election has already placed on our boards, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this causes,” Burnett said. “Steps have been taken internally to address the breakdown in protocol that led to this error.”

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