COLUMBUS— State Representatives Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) responded to a letter from over 60 advocacy groups containing election policy recommendations for best practices, particularly in emergency situations like the country is now facing. The three representatives make up the House Democratic Caucus’ Elections Working Group which has been monitoring election challenges and crafting policy proposals to ensure elections remain safe and accessible. The coalition’s letter focused on expanding mail voting and providing adequate in-person voting opportunities, two top priorities of the House Democratic Caucus and its Elections Working Group.
“In Ohio, we are fortunate to have a strong voting rights community that is always holding public officials accountable on matters of democracy,” said Rep. Hicks-Hudson, leader of the caucus working group. “The recommendations they have made are in line with what we as a caucus have prioritized over the past two decades to clear away obstacles to Ohio voters’ rights. Mail delays, postmark problems, and unreasonable procedures cannot be allowed to disenfranchise Ohio voters. It is our intent to return to Columbus to work on addressing and promoting access to the ballot for all eligible voters.”
“I commend the League of Women Voters and the many other voting rights groups in this coalition for their continued work and presence as we seek to expand access to mail voting for Ohioans and provide for the many voting challenges posed by this public health crisis,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan, sponsor of vote by mail bill HB 560.
“We lawmakers rely on Ohio’s voting advocacy community to help inform our constituents about their voting rights and to inform our elections policy work,” said Rep. Sweeney. “The recommendations this coalition has put together draw on everyday voters’ experiences and we are listening to their proposals as we gather information to move forward with a solution for Ohio’s 2020 elections and beyond. This primary has revealed weaknesses that Ohio should have been prepared for. But a decade of rollbacks to voter access and neglect of needed upgrades have left the state vulnerable.”
The House Democratic Caucus members worked with their legislative colleagues to enact an extension to voting in the ongoing 2020 primary. Several changes they sought did not make it into the final bill and voters are now confused by the changes which eliminated almost all in-person voting and failed to guarantee easily available application forms and paid postage for all voters.
House Democrats have introduced bills to improve voting this General Assembly and in General Assemblies past. Protecting voting rights has long been a priority of the caucus.
Current General Assembly – select bills:
HB 560, Universal Vote by Mail – Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan and Rep. Beth Liston
HB 466, Automatic Voter Registration – Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney
HB 204, Paper ballots for all voters – Rep. Tavia Galonski
Past General Assemblies – select bills:
HB 260, 128th GA, passed House – Online application for ballots, multiple early vote locations per county, expansion of who may return absentee ballots, allow drop-off of absentee ballots at all polling locations, requires county boards to have disaster preparedness plans, and other reforms
HB 309, 131st GA – Permit counting of mail ballots regardless of postmark problems
HB 543, 131st GA – Multiple early vote locations per county
Editor’s note: a copy of the letter from the 60 advocacy groups is attached.