Lori Baldridge, Southern Regional Liaison with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, met with Highland County Commissioners Gary Abernathy and Terry Britton and board president Jeff Duncan Wednesday to provide an update on safe elections and business reopenings.
Baldridge said the main responsibilities of Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office is to serve as the state’s chief elections officer, grant authority to do business across the state, and certify and file records.
Reaffirming LaRose’s commitment to a safe and secure election, Baldridge told commissioners that voting machines for the November elections will not be online, and therefore if hacked, votes will not be compromised.
“These hackers are not interested in affecting the vote,” Baldridge said. “Their intent is to affect voter confidence, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a big city or a small town, they’re out there trying to hack as many places as they can, so they can make people think their vote doesn’t count.”
She discussed the recently House-passed House Bill 680, which was designed to amend sections of the Ohio Revised Code concerning certain deadlines for absent voting and direct the Secretary of State’s use of federal CARES act funds, according to the Ohio Legislature website.
“The Ohio Senate is now reviewing [House Bill 680], and they took the money portion of it in preparation for the November election,” Baldridge said. “You’ll probably see money coming out to the local boards of election in the next couple of weeks. We’re working to push that money out to buy protective gear, disinfectants, sneeze guards, everything we can to make our poll workers and our community safe.”
Baldridge said Ohio voters can look forward to in-person voting, early voting and vote-by-mail, noting that “Ohioans like their choices, and that’s the focus we’re going toward.”
“There are other things in the bill, but we’re having to wait to see what the senate does,” Baldridge said. “It’s definitely a bill that is ‘in process.’”
Characterizing the past few months as “a difficult time” for Ohio businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state-wide lockdown, and Black Lives Matter protests and subsequent riots, Baldridge said operations in the Secretary of State’s Office are still moving forward despite the first two floors of their offices in downtown Columbus having suffered extensive damage due to recent rioting.
“In the month of April, we had a record high of 11,447 new business filings throughout Ohio,” Baldridge said. “In May, we had 12,892, so that’s a positive note, and we hope that new businesses will continue to thrive and we’ll get our past businesses reopened as well.”
Britton described the COVID-19 state shutdown of businesses as a major “stumbling block,” adding that the small business economy was doing exceptionally until the middle of March.
“It’s taken a little time to start coming back,” Britton said, “but I think most of them will get through it okay.”
In other matters, commissioners approved a trio of resolutions — two line item budget transfers and the other an inter-county agreement between the Job and Family Services offices of Highland and Montgomery counties.
Five contracts, four of which Duncan described as “housekeeping contracts,” were approved with the Highland County Department of Job and Family Services. The fifth contract was a certificate of city-wide cost allocation plan between the county and Maximus, Inc.
Britton said the distribution of grant funds, based on a recommendation from “our Community Action counterpart that takes care of recycling,” was approved in conjunction with the 2020 Recycling & Litter Management Revolving Fund Grant Applications.
Britton said the $4,500 grant will be divided between Highland, Leesburg and Hillsboro — the Village of Highland will receive $1,350, the Village of Leesburg will receive $1,593, and the City of Hillsboro will receive $1,557.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571