Toledo Democrats voice opposition to GOP election reform bill

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 8:11 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Ohio House Democrats capped off their first series of town halls where they voiced opposition to a GOP-led effort to change the state’s election laws Monday night in Toledo.

The event brought a host of county and city elected officials, local pastors and voting groups to New Psalmist Church to participate in the fifth town hall led by members of the House Government Oversight Committee.

Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) said the town halls that happened in five cities over six days started as a result of the first committee hearing on the bill. Democrats walked out shortly before the hearing ended after they said they were caught off guard when the questioning of the bill’s sponsors was cut short.

“In that moment, we were like, ‘We’re going to take this to the people,’” Howse said.

Tune in now as Ohio House Dems' #FreedomToVoteTour begins in Toledo.

Posted by Ohio House Dems on Monday, June 7, 2021

The next hearing on House Bill 294 is set for Thursday at 9 a.m. when supporters of the legislation will testify. More town halls are expected in the coming weeks, according to House Minority Deputy Communications Director Pete Shipley.

Republicans have lauded the legislation, that has the support of Secretary of State Frank LaRose, as a bill that makes it “easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

Among the provisions Democrats oppose in the bill:

- Allowing three ballot drop-off boxes only at a county’s board of elections for 10 days before the election

- Reallocating the early voting hours devoted to an early voting day on the Monday before Election Day in order to give local officials time to prepare for Election Day

- Moving the mail-in ballot request deadline from three to ten days before the election.

Those who spoke out against it Monday said it’s “voter selection” and not voter suppression. Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken was among the local elected officials who stood up to voice their objections to the bill.

“In Ohio, it’s easier to get a gun to kill somebody than it is to get a vote to elect somebody,” Gerken said. Republicans have said many of the changes proposed in the bill were asked for by the Ohio Association of Election Officials. But Kurt Young, one of the members of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said officials are against many of the provisions in the legislation.

“Our elections system in Ohio is not broken. We get the job done,” Young said. “We take care of those votes. We make sure they’re counted accurately. We don’t need these measures. This is about less voting and not more voting.”

Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, in a surprise appearance, encouraged the room of 50-plus Democrats to continue their efforts and expressed concerns as state lawmakers also prepare to redraw district lines.

“To work at the state level is to work in utter frustration,” Kaptur said.

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