One provision of bill alone would have invalided over 25,000 ballots last election
(HAMILTON)- State Representatives Sara Carruthers (R-51st House District) and Thomas Hall (R-52nd House District) recently co-sponsored HB 294, which largely takes long standing existing election security practices that already exist as a guise to make elections more secure while also pushing several nakedly partisan measures to suppress the vote in Ohio. The bill has no Democratic co-sponsors. Among the many provisions of HB 294, the proposed legislation would only allow voters to use drop boxes to deliver their ballots only in the last ten days before the election. Otherwise, they need to have them delivered to the local Board of Elections personally or via mail.
According to a recent public records response from the Butler County Board of Elections, over 25,000 ballots were recorded as being delivered to the drop box earlier than ten days before the 2020 General Election. The Butler County Board of Elections drop box is securely locked, under constant recorded video surveillance, and regularly checked by bipartisan teams of election officials. It is not used solely to drop off absentee ballots, but also serves as a general overnight delivery box so individuals can drop off voter registration forms, absentee ballot requests, and other election related materials to the board when it is closed.
If this bill passes, voters potentially risk invalidating their absentee ballots by returning them to the ballot box before the arbitrary window HB 294 creates. To drop off an absentee ballot in person, this legislation will force voters to compete with early in-person voters and poll workers coming in for training for the limited parking space at the Board of Elections or risk having their ballots invalidated through no fault of their own by using the U.S. Postal Service like hundreds of Hamilton voters saw in the 2020 primary. This seemingly arbitrary provision in HB 294 solves no real problem in Ohio elections. It is purely a voter suppression tactic.
“Many people who vote by mail do so because they have mobility issues. And voters have legitimate concerns whether they can rely on the U.S. Postal Service to timely deliver their ballots. Throwing up an arbitrary barrier to make it even harder for them to cast a ballot in a way they are ensured it will count is just cruel. There’s nothing magical about a drop box ten days out of an election that doesn’t exist eleven days out. We’ve had these boxes for years without issue or controversy. They are a proven secure way for voters to conveniently cast their ballots. I hope Representatives Carruthers and Hall reconsider their support of this legislation and ask that this unreasonable and arbitrary restriction be removed immediately,” said Brian Hester, Butler County Democratic Party Chair.
Suggested questions to ask Representatives Carruthers and Hall:
- Do they agree with the chief sponsor of HB 294, that anyone who voted by absentee mail last year were “COVID cowards” who don’t deserve having their right to vote protected during a pandemic?
- Were they aware before they decided to co-sponsor HB 294 that it would have impacted over 25,000 ballots that were cast in Butler County?
- Before they decided to co-sponsor HB 294, did they consult with any election officials about it?
 See, Ohio Legislative Services Commission analysis of HB 294, pages 18-19.