Elections chief: Let voters track absentee ballots online

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio’s elections chief said Wednesday he wants all voters in the swing state to be able to track their absentee ballots online, as military voters and some residents in larger counties already do.

The idea was among several priorities that Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted discussed at a conference of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.

Husted said he would like to see online tracking in all 88 counties in time for the 2016 primary elections.

“This will further increase voters’ confidence in casting ballots by mail and in Ohio elections overall,” he told the group of bipartisan elections officials.

While voters would not see every movement of their ballot through the mail, Husted said online tracking would let voters verify that their local board of elections had received their ballot.

Ohioans can vote early by mail or in person. Almost 23 percent of voters in last year’s gubernatorial election cast absentee ballots by mail, according to data from Husted’s office.

Among other priorities, Husted said he would soon direct elections officials to conduct a review of any reports of voter fraud, voter suppression or other irregularities in the 2014 election, as he did following the 2012 presidential election.

“We want to make sure that people trust the elections security,” Husted said. “If people say there’s a problem, let’s find out what the facts are.”

The statewide review of the last presidential election was the first of its kind in Ohio. It found that fraud cases were rare. Boards also were instructed to look for voter suppression, but found no documented cases of voters being denied ballots.

In his speech, Husted again called for the Republican-controlled Legislature to support online voter registration.

The idea failed to get traction in the last General Assembly, though Husted said he was feeling more optimistic about its prospects based on early conversations with lawmakers.

The elections chief also told elections officials to begin preparing for the 2016 presidential election – noting that the perennial battleground could see increased scrutiny with potentially competitive presidential primaries, the Republicans holding their 2016 presidential nominating convention in Cleveland, and Columbus in the running to host the Democratic Party’s convention.

“As if people didn’t focus enough on Ohio in presidential elections, we’ve invited more,” he said.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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