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Government & Politics

Ohio Republicans Introduce Bill With Voting Law Changes, Restrictions

Voters cast ballots at the Franklin County Board of Elections on March 15, 2020. Two days later, the polls were closed for the primary statewide because of the pandemic and all voting was done by mail.
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Voters cast ballots at the Franklin County Board of Elections March 15, 2020. Two days later, the polls were closed for the primary statewide because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all voting was done by mail.

A bill that would put changes and restrictions on Ohio laws related to early voting, ballot drop boxes and other election laws has finally been introduced, after weeks of speculation.

The bill from Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) would limit counties to one ballot drop box for 10 days before the election and cut off absentee ballot requests 10 days before. It would also require two forms of ID to request an absentee ballot in an online request process and would eliminate in-person voting the day before the election, though those hours could be reallocated to other days.

Seitz had harsh words for Democrats in Ohio and in other states who oppose these kinds of moves.

"What are these people talking about? They are partisans ... They want non-citizens to be able to vote. They don't want anybody to find any fraud," Seitz said. "And if you don't have systems that will detect fraud, you won't find it."

In an interview for "The State of Ohio", Seitz admitted he’s no fan of Ohio’s four weeks of early absentee voting and said that’s the one vote in his 21-year legislative career he wishes he could take back.

“If I wanted to truly take back my vote from 2005, we'd go back to Election Day, not election week, not election month. I think that ship has sailed. I think it would be too big of a step to go back on all of that. And I'm not proposing to do that," Seitz said.

"But I will say that when you create 28-day windows of early voting, you are increasing the cost to all of the campaigns because they have to work that much harder and earlier to get their message out,” he said.

Democrats such as Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) say Ohio’s problem is not fraud — which wasn’t found in last year’s election — but access.

“I think what we have here is some GOP lawmakers who are trying to divide us with absurd allegations, possibly to distract from what their real motivations are for bringing forth some of the measures they're trying to do here," Sweeney said, also in an interview for "The State of Ohio."

And Sweeney said voters have been clear in their support for Ohio’s early voting opportunities.

"We work for the people, and we know what voters want. They like options. Voting is important to making a having a healthy democracy," Sweeney said. "And when we allow to have early voting, to have drop boxes to having these different options, we see more people being able to participate, which is - anyone who was elected by this process, you want as many people as possible."

Seitz’s bill would also allow for automated registration at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles but not automatic registration as Democrats have wanted; require all early ballots must have security envelopes to be counted; and restate a ban that’s already in place on “ballot harvesting” by saying only direct family members or elections workers under certain circumstances can collect ballots.

And Seitz said a bill in the Senate could take a few more steps than his and that some of his colleagues would like to dramatically cut back or even eliminate the no-excuse absentee voting that’s been in place since 2005.

The Brennan Center for Justice reports 47 states have considered more than 360 bills that would restrict voting. That report was put out in March so it doesn't count Ohio in its total.

The 2020 election in Ohio saw record voter turnout and also record turnout for early absentee voting. While absentee ballots from Democratic-affiliated voters appeared to be the bulk of those early votes, former President Trump ended up winning Ohio by eight points. And several local races that looked to be close didn't turn out to be.
Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.