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Politics

Ohio Republicans Unveil Bill To Rewrite Election Laws

Two voters fill out ballots during early voting at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak
/
Associated Press

Ohio has become the latest state where Republicans are proposing a significant rewrite of state election laws.

Legislation introduced Thursday calls for prohibiting off-site ballot drop boxes, eliminating a day of early voting and tightening voter ID requirements, all restrictions criticized by Democrats.

The bill also would add some conveniences to elections, including an online absentee ballot request system and automated voter registration.

Its sponsor, Republican state Rep. Bill Seitz, said the sweeping overhaul isn't suppressive but incorporates changes advocated by both parties, as well as election officials and voting rights advocates.

Democrats such as Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) said Ohio’s problem is not fraud, which wasn’t found in last year’s election, but access.

“I think what we have here is some GOP lawmakers who are trying to divide us with absurd allegations, possibly to distract from what their real motivations are for bringing forth some of the measures they're trying to do here," Sweeney said.

Sweeney said voters have been clear in their support for Ohio’s early voting opportunities.

"We work for the people and we know what voters want. They like options. Voting is important to making a having a healthy democracy," Sweeney said. "And when we allow to have early voting, to have drop boxes to having these different options, we see more people being able to participate, which is - anyone who was elected by this process, you want as many people as possible."

The 2020 election in Ohio saw record voter turnout, and also record turnout for early absentee voting. While absentee ballots from Democratic-affiliated voters appeared to be the bulk of those early votes, former President Trump ended up winning Ohio by eight points. And several local races that looked to be close didn't turn out to be.

Karen Kasler contributed to this article.