House Hearing Today on New Election Reform Bill in Ohio

House Bill 293 gets a hearing today - David Wilson/FlickrCC
David Wilson/FlickrCC
House Bill 293 gets a hearing today

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A hearing will be held today on a controversial bill to overhaul Ohio's voting laws.

Supporters of House Bill 294 said the measure includes provisions requested by local election officials, as well as reforms advocated by both parties, including an online ballot request system and automated voter registration.

Kayla Griffin, Ohio Director of All Voting is Local, calls the bill a Trojan horse, explaining it also includes provisions that restrict access.

"We would think that after such a historic election where we see numbers that are off the charts, and we have to tip our hats to the elected officials, why aren't we leaning into efforts that will continue to grow our electorate as opposed to restricting them?" Griffin asked.

Voting-rights advocates are concerned about several measures, including cutting the last day of early voting and limiting county boards of elections to three drop boxes that can be used only for the 10 days before an election. The bill also prohibits the use of public funds to pay for return postage for a mailed ballot.

Collin Marozzi, policy strategist for the ACLU of Ohio, explained the measure encourages civic participation by allowing 17-year-olds to volunteer at precincts, but at the same time, he noted, it maintains the prohibition of a grandchild returning an absentee ballot on behalf of a grandparent.

"Those things may not seem related, but if we're saying 17-year-olds should have the responsibility and the privilege of working as a poll worker, they very easily should be able to drop off their grandparents' ballot," Marozzi asserted. "That's a common-sense thing to include."

The bill also moves the absentee-ballot request window from three days before Election Day to ten days, which supporters contended is needed for logistical reasons.

But Marozzi argued the data paints another picture. He explained about 450,000 absentee ballots were requested during the seven days before the deadline in 2020, and 413,000 of those were successfully returned and counted.

"And that's a return rate of over 90%, and that number suggests that Ohio's current absentee-ballot request window does not need to be significantly altered like it does in House Bill 294," Marozzi concluded.

The bill will have its first hearing before the House Government Oversight Committee.
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