COLUMBUS—Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) issued a statement today as Republican lawmakers voted to fast-track legislation that does little to prepare the state’s Boards of Elections to safely conduct a presidential election amid the worst global pandemic in more than a century.
House Bill (HB) 680 shortens the time for voters to request absentee ballots, eliminates the ability for the secretary of state to prepay return postage for ballot applications, and bars the Health Director and other officials from affecting the conduct of elections—even at the risk of public health.
“Ohio residents suffered through a chaotic Primary Election Day on March 17 that was extended for absentee voting until April 28. The General Election in the fall is a scant five months away, and the bill that we passed in the House today was rushed through committee. 74 opponents testified against the bill, but few improvements were made in spite of their logical, well-reasoned, and well informed arguments,” Rep. Lightbody said. “HB 680 limits voter access, makes the process to vote by mail equally difficult, and limits opportunities to vote at each county’s single Early Vote center. I encourage every registered voter to verify their mailing address and to submit a request for an absentee ballot now to ensure timely receipt of your ballot for the November General Election.”
The bill stands in stark contrast to the Democrats’ proposal, HB 687, which would expand online registration, make it easier for Ohioans to vote by mail, and protect safe, accessible in-person voting opportunities amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 2,000 Ohioans.
Democrats offered several amendments on the floor, including:
- Removing the prohibition on officials from affecting the conduct of elections, which would limit the ability of Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton to determine if in-person voting is safe this November, which was sponsored by Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington).
- Allowing the secretary of state to prepay return postage for ballot applications and absentee ballots, sponsored by Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland).
- Removing confusion by allowing ballots to be postmarked by Election Day, rather than the day before Election Day, which was sponsored by Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati).
- Mailing ballots to every voter for this November’s presidential election, sponsored by Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown).
- Removing language that ends Early Voting at 6 p.m. the Friday before the election, sponsored by Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo).
Republicans rejected each of the Democratic amendments along party lines.
After a party-line vote, HB 680 now moves to the Senate for consideration.