Ohio Republicans bring back push to change election laws
GOP looks to pass bills during lame-duck session
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVG) - Ohio Republicans are reviving efforts to overhaul a series of election laws in bills that address drop boxes, voter ID, early voting hours and absentee ballot deadlines.
House Republicans rolled out a series of changes to House Bill 294 this week ahead of a committee hearing Thursday. Opponents argued the changes would make elections more expensive and inefficient, while supporters have said the bill aims to make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
The new version of the bill eliminates automated voter registration through the BMV, something advocated for by Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati said that was a concession made during negotiations with the Senate over the last five months.
The bill creates an option to request an absentee ballot online, but opponents who testified Thursday said that provision isn’t enough for them to support the bill.
Other changes the bill makes include:
- Eliminates the six hours of early voting on the Monday before Election Day. Boards of elections would open earlier, and close later the previous Monday through Friday
- Shortens the time absentee ballots are allowed to arrive at the board of elections from 10 days after the election to seven days
- Changes the due date for an absentee ballot application to the close of business seven days before Election Day instead of noon on the third day before Election Day
- Allows no more than three drop boxes outside of a county’s board of elections from the close of voter registration to when polls close on Election Day that are under constant video surveillance
- Prohibits the Secretary of State from sending absentee ballot applications to all voters, prohibits any public official from prepaying the return postage on an application
Republicans hope to pass the bill before the end of the legislature’s lame-duck session. Any bills that don’t pass before the end of the year must be introduced during the next session.
GOP leaders first introduced House Bill 294 in 2021 to strong opposition from Democrats and voting rights groups. The bill led Democrats to hold a series of town halls to voice their opposition to the bill.
The latest version of the bill also adds language from other bills that address August special elections, ballot printing, county charters and poll books. It also removes language that would’ve codified curbside voting procedures.
Plus, it adds a requirement for noncitizens to have a notation on their ID or driver’s license that says they’re not a citizen. Ohioans overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment during the Nov. 8 election that prohibits noncitizens from voting.
Seitz said the Senate is preparing to pass a bill that would require photo IDs to vote. The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Theresa Gavarone Bowling Green, also requires the state to send any Ohio citizen an ID card for free. That led to other changes in his bill addressing ID requirements.
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