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Democrats respond to flurry of GOP anti-voter bills

Say any bill that rolls back right to vote is a nonstarter
May 7, 2021
Bride Rose Sweeney News

Members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus elections and voting rights working group today responded to the introduction of House Bill 294, a Republican anti-voter bill that would roll back ballot access and intentionally make the process more confusing for voters.

The bill would:

1) change the voter ID rules including forcing people to provide two forms of Voter ID in some cases and imposing a new three-tiered ID requirement on vote-by-mail voters, 

2) reduce the number of days of early voting, 

3) shorten mail ballot access by a week, and 

4) restrict ballot drop boxes, among other changes opposed by pro-voter advocates.

Ohio’s latest anti-voter bill comes as Republicans across the country have introduced over 350 bills restricting the right to vote this year alone, including in Ohio, where House Republicans approved a resolution Thursday urging Congress not to pass the For the People Act, legislation to make sure voting options are equally accessible across all 50 states.

In contrast, House Democrats in Ohio have introduced a number of pro-voter bills in recent years, including legislation to:

1) expand access to secure ballot drop boxes, 

2) urge passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act

3) create true Opt Out automated voter registration

4) provide voters with paid return postage for mail ballots, 

5) create a safe and accessible online system to request mail ballots, 

6) allow more than one early vote center per county, and 

7) allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted.

Here is what Democrats are saying about the anti-voter HB 294:

“A democracy that works for us must include all of us, but Republicans with this bill are trying to divide us. This bill does nothing to make sure our voting options are equally accessible,” said Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo). “In fact, this bill takes us in the wrong direction with anti-voter measures that erode our freedom to vote. Anyone who is serious about safe and accessible elections will look at this bill and see it’s a nonstarter.”

“Most Ohioans, no matter where they come from or who they vote for, want a seamless and accessible voting process, not new and unnecessary barriers to making their voice heard. I have long supported modernizing Ohio’s election laws, but House Bill 294 is a step in the wrong direction,” said Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland). “By removing early voting days, shortening absentee ballot access by a week, and adding new and confusing requirements, this bill could only result in less voter access and more ballots being thrown out. Last election in Cuyahoga County, I saw the lines of voters wrapped around buildings, folks lined up down the freeway to early vote, and traffic jams around one drop box location. This proposal would do nothing to address that and would actually worsen these problems.” 

“Ohioans aren’t asking for these changes. And why would they? This bill is nothing more than an attack on our most fundamental freedom—the right to vote. But that’s nothing new. This bill is from the same people that tried to make it harder for Black people and college kids to vote and threw millions of voters off the rolls. They don’t have our best interest in mind. But we won't let them block us from our vote,” said Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati).

“Ohioans believe we should be able to cast our ballots safely and freely but GOP lawmakers are trying to take that away from us,” said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown). “This bill will make it hard to vote, create chaos and confusion and make Ohio a national leader in suppressing our most fundamental freedom. This is the opposite of what we should be doing to make sure our democracy works for the people.”