Effort to Make Voter Registration Easier in Ohio Takes First Steps Toward Ballot

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A coalition of voting rights groups has launched a ballot initiative that they say will amend the Ohio constitution to make it easier for Ohioans to register and vote.

The Secure and Fair Elections Amendment would automatically register Ohioans to vote when they receive or renew a driver's license, state ID or learner's permit and would also allow same-day registration and voting during the state's early voting period or on Election Day. The proposed amendment would also lock in a 28-day early voting period and do more to ensure service members and voters living outside the U.S. receive their absentee ballots in a timely manner.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is leading the effort, which will need to collect roughly 443,000 signatures to land on the ballot.

Currently, 18 states have automated voter registration and 21 offer same-day registration and voting. Voters in Michigan passed a similar initiative last year led by that state's ACLU chapter.

"In the process of building a non-partisan, broadly representative buckeye coalition, we've had ongoing conversations with Ohio veterans, faith-based groups, members of the disability rights community, advocacy and legal organizations, and the consensus is clear," ACLU Ohio Executive Director J. Bennett Guess said in a statement about the effort. "It's time to remove unnecessary barriers to the ballot and make sure that our elections are secure and fair, ensuring all eligible voters are heard and our democracy is strengthened,"

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office has in the past pushed for automated voting in Ohio, but has said he believes changes to voting procedures should take place via action initiated by lawmakers, not through a ballot initiative changing the state's constitution.

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