Dozens of mayors from around the country, including several from Ohio, are calling on the U.S. Senate to protect the right to vote and the integrity of elections.
Joe Begeny, mayor of Reynoldsburg, is among more than one hundred mayors who signed a letter in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.
He said it is all about ensuring fair representation, noting he has heard from residents who are concerned about policies that could alter election outcomes.
"Your local leaders have more interactions with the public than typically your average senator does," Begeny contended. "This isn't just a Washington inside-the-Beltway conversation about voting rights. This is actually something that affects every community all the way from the largest of the large cities to the smallest of the small."
The two bills would create standards for voting access in federal elections, including mandating early voting, creating an Election Day holiday, and setting uniform vote-counting rules. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio and other opponents argued the measures are an attempt to federalize elections, but supporters including Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, countered they are needed to counteract restrictive voting laws passed in more than a dozen states.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden gave an impassioned speech about the need for election reform, and supported calls by Democrats to change the filibuster in order to make it happen. Instead of getting caught up in the politics of chamber rules, Begeny believes senators should allow the bills to go to the floor where they can be debated on their merits.
"If senators do feel that this is an overburden on federal authority, then let them say so on the record and make their vote clear about where they stand on people's abilities to vote in the states that they represent," Begeny urged.
Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State, is a vocal opponent of the measures, and has said election security should be left to the states. But Begeny noted not all states offer the same opportunities to vote, which he contends is especially problematic in federal elections.
"There's always questions, especially with the most recent election, about the viability, the legality or the correct results that were posted in there," Begeny outlined. "I think having a similar set of rules for all states to follow is a good direction to go."
The mayors of Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Elyria, Lorain, Toledo and Youngstown also signed a letter sent to the Senate majority and minority leaders in support of voting-rights reform.