Democratic Lawmakers Working to Make Voting Safe, Convenient, Even In Global Pandemic
COLUMBUS — Ohio’s primary election resulted in “low voter turnout and confusion,” and now Ohio House Republicans are using that — and Wisconsin’s primary, which led to large increases in coronavirus cases — as a blueprint for November and proposing legislation to make it harder to vote by mail and vote in person.
“It’s unimaginable that public officials could look at what happened here during the primary and what happened in Wisconsin — with massive disenfranchisement and large numbers of poll workers and voters contracting COVID-19 — and think, let’s do that all over again this fall, as we experience a second or third wave of infections,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “We need to be really clear about what the Ohio House GOP is proposing — they are simultaneously making it harder for Ohioans to vote by mail, while also taking away opportunities to vote safely and cast a ballot early in person. This attack on the democratic process is deeply cynical and downright un-American, not to mention dangerous. Gov. Mike DeWine should pledge to veto this bill, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose should condemn it.”
State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan yesterday criticized House Bill 680 — introduced by state Rep. Cindy Abrams of Hamilton County — as the Republican Party’s “latest demonstration of their disdain for democracy as well as their utter disregard for the well-being of the people they were elected to serve.”
In contrast to the Ohio GOP, state Sen. Nickie Antonio and state Sen. Sandra Williams today announced legislation that would make it more convenient for Ohioans to vote by mail, which is critical for keeping Ohioans safe during the coronavirus crisis. This bill would also protect current state law that locks in a maximum ratio of voters per voting machine.
Ohio House Democrats have also offered a proposal to ensure this November’s election is safe and accessible for all eligible Ohioans.
“Ohio Democrats truly believe we’re all in this together, and that’s why we support greater voter participation — regardless of political party,” said Pepper. “Expanding vote-by-mail is not just the right thing to do; it’s got the support of the vast majority of Americans. Donald Trump and his Republican lackeys in the Ohio Statehouse are attacking the right to vote because they’re afraid they will lose in November if everyone can vote. Trump himself told us so: ‘Republicans can’t win an election’ if they let more people vote.”
The Abrams’ bill proposes the following:
- Reduces the time for military and non-military voters to vote by mail by seven days;
- Eliminates the last three days of early voting for military and non-military voters;
- Undoes the mailing of absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, a provision that was passed in last year’s budget;
- Replaces the longstanding system of mailing a ballot application to all voters with the mailing of a postcard that is not an application, like what was sent for this recent primary;
- Forbids the Secretary of State from using federal CARES Act and Help America Vote Act funding to pay return postage for ballot applications and ballots;
- Sets an impossible standard for how the state could modify in-person voting in case COVID19 is still a danger this fall. The Governor and ODH director would have to declare the emergency plan by Sept. 4 and the legislature would have until Labor Day, 57 days before the election, to approve the order for it to take effect. This would guarantee that boards of elections would not have the supplies on hand to conduct the election by mail;
- Potentially violates federal statute which sets the election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November;
- Potentially violates the federal Help America Vote Act by unlawfully restricting failsafe provisional ballot access;
- Does not allow for more than one early voting location;
- Removes the state and local health departments’ ability to set standards for the conduct of elections. That means the health officials could not set standards for adequate social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and the use of masks.
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