by J.D. Davidson
Ohio Democrats blasted a Republican proposal to rewrite the state’s election law to stop off-site ballot boxes, eliminate early-voting options and strengthen Ohio’s voter ID regulations.
The proposal, however, also includes creating an automated voter registration plan and easier access to absentee voter requests.
Reps. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, and Sharon Ray, R-Wadsworth, plan to introduce what they call a comprehensive modernization and reform bill, while Democrats believe it’s more extreme restrictions on the right to vote that continue across the country.
“In a state that has set the bar for extreme anti-voter laws, this proposal actively takes steps to put Ohio further back in the fight for access to the voting booth,” said Liz Walters (pictured above), chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. “By limiting Ohioans’ ability to vote and by sowing confusion, statehouse Republicans are once again attacking the fundamental right to vote in this state. While Georgia’s voting bill has been panned nationwide, Ohio Republicans used that bill as a starting point and then proceeded to work backwards from there.”
Seitz said the proposed bill would eliminate in-person absentee voting the Monday before the general election and require absentee ballots to be requested 10 days before an election instead of the current three. The secretary of state also would need legislative approval to pre-pay postage on absentee ballot request forms.
It also would require each board of election to have one monitored drop box on premises during any pandemic or emergency and allows up to three on the premises for 10 days before an election, even without any pandemic or declared emergency.
The upcoming bill creates automated, but not automatic, voter registration through the bureau of motor vehicles and an online absentee ballot request system that requires two-factor authentication, Seitz said.
Seitz called it a balanced bill that makes voting easy and cheating hard.
Democratic leaders called it a threat to free and fair elections in the state.
“Our democracy should work for all of us, that begins with the right to vote. The GOP proposal threatens that right, jeopardizing free and fair elections in Ohio – two forms of voter ID, fewer days to vote early in person and only one drop box location in my county of over 1 million people,” said Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland. “This is a repackaged version of the egregious attack on voting rights we saw in Georgia, a deliberate attempt to create chaos, confusion and limit the voices of Ohio voters. This bill would take us in the wrong direction.”
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Elizabeth Walters” by Walters for Ohio.