Now is the Time to Protect Ohio Voting Rights

There have been many opinions on the Ohio Election Security and Modernization Act – better known as HB 294. The Bill, introduced by Bill Seitz ( R) and Sharon Ray ( R), is also co-sponsored by Butler County Representatives Thomas Hall ( R) and Sara Carruthers ( R).

Secretary of State LaRose recently told Ohio Board of Election members that they had conducted one of the most secure elections in Ohio history, and yet, legislation has been introduced to change how voters vote in Ohio. The Bill is a mix of good items as well as attempts to suppress voting.

Ohioans learned during the Presidential election how easy and effective vote by mail is. Each voter has the opportunity to request a ballot, enjoy the ease of filling it in at home and returning it to the Board of Elections either by mailing it, or driving it to the Board of Elections and placing it in the drop box. The use of mail-in ballots has been on the rise in recent years as more and more voters find out how convenient it is. One of the benefits of the bill is that it would allow voters to not only register to vote online, but to also request an absentee ballot online.

HR 294 also codifies some Board of Elections activities, like the testing of voting machines before the election, which will continue to ensure accurate results.

On the plus side, it also broadens the definition of ‘voter action’ which should prevent some voters from being purged from the voter roles at the Board of Elections. Activities such as signing petitions and interaction with the DMV will keep a voter’s status as active.

But according to the Ohio Voting Rights Commission, these common sense reforms act as cover for the real purpose behind the Bill – suppressing your rights, by including these provisions:

  • Changing the time to request an absentee ballot from 3 days before election to 10 days before election.
  • Imposing a confusing 3-tier ID requirement for absentee ballots.
  • Canceling the Monday before election day as an early voting day.
  • Tossing absentee ballots not sealed in 2 envelopes, disallowing any efforts by the Board of Elections to attempt to contact you to correct or ‘cure’ your ballot

But the greatest voter suppression provision is the limited use of drop boxes. Last year, Butler County Democratic Party was an advocate for adding ballot drop boxes to Oxford, Middletown, Fairfield and Liberty Twp/West Chester Twp, to increase the convenience of absentee voting. Although Secretary of State LaRose could have issued a directive allowing these to be added, he avoided the decision by saying it was the legislation’s job to change the law…even when the Ohio Supreme Court said he did have the authority.

So now, the issue is not just that each county is limited to one drop box, but that the use of that drop box will now be limited to only the 10 days before an election. This means that if you want to vote early, between 10 and 30 days before the election, your only option is to vote in-person at the Board of Elections or return the ballot via USPS.

Call Carruthers (614) 644-6721 and Hall (614) 644-5094 NOW and let them know your feelings on this legislation.