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Backers Of Voting Rights Amendment Expect Support 'Across Political Spectrum'

Voters fill out their ballots at the Hamilton County Board of Elections on the first day of early voting, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
/
Associated Press
Voters fill out their ballots at the Hamilton County Board of Elections on the first day of early voting, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Cincinnati.

The coalition pushing constitutional protections for voter rights is pitching their ballot measure as something with widespread appeal.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost approved the petition language for the proposed "Secure and Fair Elections Amendment,” moving organizers a step closer to gathering signatures.

The ballot initiative would create automatic voter registration, guarantee 28 days of early voting, and allow same day registration and voting.

Bennett Guess, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, says the proposal has seen bipartisan support in other states because it adds protections and encourages voter participation.

"And surely we can all agree that that's an important step that we can take as Ohioans," Bennett says.

He adds that a similar measure passed with overwhelming support in Michigan's 2018 election.

If approved, Ohioans would be automatically registered to vote when conducting business at state Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices. Early voting locations would have to be open on the two weekends prior to Election Day, allowing eligible voters to register and vote on the same day.

The requirement that voters be registered during BMV trips unless they opt otherwise is also part of pending House and Senate legislation.

Twenty-one states plus the District of Columbia have same-day voter registration, and more than a dozen have some type of automated voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In addition to the ACLU, the proposed amendment has the backing of the NAACP's Ohio conference. Proponents say the amendment would boost voter turnout in the state. So far there's no organized opposition against the measure.

If the Ohio Ballot Board approves the ballot language, the group can officially begin collecting signatures.

Advocates for the initiative have until July to collect 442,958 valid signatures in order to qualify for the November ballot.