Ohio Republicans seek support for voting reform bill, Democrats against most proposed changes

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 11:16 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Some Ohio Democrats say Republicans are taking steps backward for voting rights. The state’s chief elections official disagrees.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose was in Bowling Green Monday to visit the Wood County Board of Elections. In a news conference, he said the proposed changes will strengthen the state’s overall voting system.

“This bill makes it easier to vote in Ohio, but also harder to cheat in Ohio,” LaRose said. He pointed out voting fraud is “exceedingly rare” in the state.

The proposal would reportedly:

- Give Ohioans the option to request an absentee ballot online

- Eliminate Monday voting before Election Day, and reallocate the hours to other days, to allow election workers to prepare for Election Day

- Allow all 17-year-olds to serve as precinct workers, not just high school seniors

- Limit ballot drop off boxes to three per board of elections office for the 10 days leading up to the election

- Automate voter registration through the BMV

- Move the absentee ballot request deadline to 10 days before Election Day, instead of the current three-day deadline

- Allow electronic copies of utility bills as a form of in-person Voter ID

The actual text of the bill is still a mystery. Lawmakers are seeking cosponsors for the bill and could formally introduce it soon. LaRose said he hopes it passes this calendar year.

But Democrats called a virtual news conference Monday morning to say why they hope it never passes.

“We knew Ohio Republicans wouldn’t be able to sit by idly and watch other states one-up them in the race to limit voting rights,” said Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon).

They argued in favor of expanding ballot drop boxes to outside of a county’s BOE property. They also are against moving the Monday voting day.

Democrats said the bill would require two forms of ID to request an online absentee ballot, something LaRose said called a misconception. He said the process would require a state ID number and the last four digits of someone’s social security number, replacing a signature that someone would use in person.

Democrats argue that the bill is unnecessary and said there are other ways to address Republicans’ concerns with the voting process highlighted in the bill.

“These GOP proposals aren’t serious efforts to help Ohio voters, they’re extreme measures that only make it more difficult for Ohioans to have their voices heard. And we won’t sit quietly as Republican politicians attack the right to vote once again,” said Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo).

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