Public Records requests about the elections are having an impact on local offices
Washington County Board of Elections has received around 15 public records requests relating to the 2020 presidential elections since August.
MARIETTA, OH. (WTAP) -
Public Records requests relating to the elections have been flooding the inboxes of elections offices across Ohio.
Thought to be from election deniers, Washington County Board of Elections has received around 15 public records requests relating to the 2020 presidential elections since August.
The public records request are a part of the ‘Sunshine law.’ People can come in and ask for records that are already public… to educate themselves most of the time, according to Karen Pawloski, deputy director of the Washington County Board of Elections.
“If it’s something that we already gather and keep as far as records and they’re readily available, that’s not a problem, we can usually get copies of those. But some of these requests are asking for things we’re not sure we can even provide.”
Pawloski said that they have records with information containing driver’s license numbers and parts of social security numbers. Because of the private information, their office is working with the prosecutor’s office to find out what they can and can not provide.
Another issue the have are with requests that are too broad. One example Pawloski gave was for ballot copies. She said it’d be nearly impossible to get a copy of every ballot for the 2020 election due to a 78% voter turnout.
“So that’s thousands upon thousands of those ballots that we would have to copy and we just don’t have the man power. We’re a four woman office. So, we just don’t have the man power to be able to do that. So we can charge them. And our vendor told us that it could run into the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to be able to provide those records.”
Another example Pawloski gave was of a man going into another Ohio office and asking for all of their records to be put on his personal thumb drive. She explained that this type of transfer is not allowed for many issues including cybersecurity threats and personal information being private. She said they’re trying to do their due diligence to respond to the requests while also keeping everyone’s information safe and keeping the integrity and security of all voting equipment.
Pawloski believes these requests are coming from people who deny the 2020 election results. Similar to those sending requests across Ohio. She said it seems like the requests are a part of a united effort from one group since a lot of the Requests are worded exactly the same.
While Pawloski is happy to see people taking an active role in government, the requests are putting a strain on their already tight schedule.
“When you’re trying to close one election from august second and get ready for the bigger election on august 8th and still try and deal with all of these public records requests, it can be quite cumbersome. We’ll do our best as I say, I’m a firm believer in the sunshine law. I’m a firm believer in people asking for these, but we will do our best to accommodate those, but we also have an election we have to put on.”
Pawloski said that unlike larger counties that have more staff, and possible legal departments, their office is only four people. They have to work with the prosecutor’s office, who she says is also busy.
Some of the requests could be narrowed down by people searching their website, according to Pawloski. She said some of the information being requested is available on their website voteohio.gov.
She suggests searching there first, before submitting and requests.
Wood County Clerk.. Mark Rhodes… says they have received about 5 requests in the past 2 to 3 weeks which is more than normal, but not overwhelming.
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