Section: News

Ohio lawmakers propose voter suppression laws

Legislation circulated among Ohio lawmakers last Thursday would overhaul the state’s voting system. The bill includes banning off-site ballot drop boxes, tightening voter ID requirements and eliminating a day of early voting. It would also make requesting a mail-in ballot online possible, in addition to automating voter registration.

The legislation has not yet been formally introduced, but is already facing harsh criticism regarding its potential for voter suppression. More Perfect Union, the first to report on the bill, characterized it as a “devastating new voter suppression bill.” In a fundraising email to supporters, Emilia Sykes, the Ohio Statehouse’s minority leader, wrote that the bill is “so draconian that the Georgia law looks mild in comparison.” The bill passed in Georgia included similar limitations on early voting and ballot drop boxes, and also included more extreme measures, such as prohibiting the distribution of food and water to people waiting in line to vote. 

Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose denied accusations of voter suppression. “This bill makes it easier to vote in Ohio, but also harder to cheat in Ohio,” he said in a press conference Monday. 

Despite LaRose’s claim that this bill will make voting easier, the online registration process would be more difficult than it currently is, as two forms of ID would be required. The bill also limits what constitutes valid forms of ID for voters. Specifically, the state will no longer accept just the last four digits of a voter’s Social Security number as sufficient identification. 

This legislation comes despite the fact that the 2020 election was accepted as the safest ever, a fact which bill co-sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz acknowledged. “Happily for Ohio, the reforms we have already implemented helped to ensure there were only minimal complaints about the Ohio election results in 2020,” Seitz said.  

As recently as January, Ohio purged 97,795 people from voter registration rolls. Additionally, over 10,000 Ohioans believed that the state had cancelled their voter registration ballots in the 2020 election, leading to concerns about the reliability of voting in Ohio. 

Seitz and the bill’s other co-sponsor Rep. Sharon Ray are seeking more co-sponsors before they formally introduce the bill to the State House of Representatives.

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