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Ohio GOP Propose Voting Law Changes That Restrict Drop Boxes, Add Online Absentee Requests

A line of early voters stands by a ballot drop box at the Franklin County Board of Elections on October 20, 2020.
A line of early voters stands by a ballot drop box at the Franklin County Board of Elections on October 20, 2020.

Ohio has joined the list of states where Republicans want to make changes to voting laws after the 2020 election. The bill includes changes that appeal to both parties, but some that Democrats have spoken against.

In his request to fellow representatives to become co-sponsors of his bill, Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) wrote that he isn’t challenging the election of President Biden. Seitz writes that Donald Trump won Ohio by eight points in "a fair and fraud-free count." 

However Seitz wrote his bill will make Ohio’s elections more secure.

He’s proposing online absentee ballot requests and moving the request deadline from the Saturday before the election to 10 days before. County boards of elections and voting rights advocates urged voters to request absentee ballots early last year because of concerns about slowdowns with the USPS, and voters responded in record numbers

The bill also limits ballot drop boxes to one per county, while Democrats had wanted to expand them, and they would be available only for 10 days before the election.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose had said last year he'd like to install more if he had the ability to do so without legislative approval. Then he told counties they couldn't add them. A lawsuit was filed and then was dropped. Right now, LaRose's directive which allows only one drop box per county remains in place.

Seitz's bill also would eliminate in person voting the day before the election, though those hours can be scheduled another day. County boards of elections have suggested they'd like more time to prepare for the Election Day vote.

The bill also allows for automated registration through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles rather than all adults being automatically registered to vote, which Democrats have wanted. LaRose had advocated for a system that would register voters at the BMV not long after he was elected in 2018.

Progressive groups claimed to have seen an earlier version of the bill and said it would ban drop boxes entirely and require two forms of ID for in-person early voting.

Ohio Democratic Party chair Liz Walters put out a statement blasting the proposal, writing in part: "In a state that has set the bar for extreme anti-voter laws, this proposal actively takes steps to put Ohio further back in the fight for access to the voting booth."

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.