COLUMBUS—State Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) joined House Democrats to release their proposal for holding a safe and accessible presidential election this November amid the worst global pandemic in more than a century. Highlights of the plan include mailing a ballot with prepaid return postage to every voter, extending the ballot postmark date to Election Day, enhancing safety for in-person voting and expanding voter registration.
Rep. Lightbody issued the following statement on the Democratic proposal:
“Making procedures and policies now to ensure voting in the fall is easy, safe, and as clear as possible is crucial. Measures that make voter registration effective and maintain accuracy are important and will be addressed through this legislation. We need to be prepared for COVID-19 to still be with us in November and it is highly incumbent upon us to make plans now.”
Democrats received input from voting rights advocates; civil rights, labor and community organizations; bipartisan election officials; local elected officials; and the secretary of state. They plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks based on these discussions to protect voters’ fundamental freedoms during the general election.
The bill will address many of the issues that have been raised by stakeholders, including:
- Expanding access to online voter registration to allow voters to provide either SSN4 or driver’s license/state ID number, not both, on the online form. Voter registration opportunities have been greatly reduced by BMV closures.
- Implementing a comprehensive voter education campaign using trusted messengers on social media, TV, radio and newspaper advertising.
- Protecting in-person voting by offering multiple Early Vote locations in medium in large counties and limiting precinct consolidation on Election Day.
- Increasing safety protocols, like physical distancing and sanitization at all in-person voting locations.
- Expanding vote-by-mail by automatically sending a ballot to every registered voter, return postage prepaid.
- Counting ballots postmarked by Election Day. Current law requires postmarking by the day before the election which is a source of great confusion and misinformation.
- Allowing counties to have multiple secure drop-boxes in the community where voters can drop off their mail ballots in person.
- Extending provisional ballot and absentee ballot error correction period from 7 days to 7 business days and eliminating technical reasons to reject ballots such as transposed digits, providing the current year instead of birth year, tearing off a perforated stub from a ballot, and other insignificant errors.
- Providing funds as needed for mail sorters, letter openers, ballot scanners, etc.
- Codifying requirement that county boards maintain updated Election Administration Plans with emergency and contingency provisions.
In addition, Democrats noted that the secretary of state has the ability to make needed improvements for the upcoming elections without changes in law, including:
- Expanding Ohio’s NVRA “Motor Voter” voter registration agencies to include the unemployment office.
- Reinstating purged voters who still live in Ohio.
- Implementing Automatic Voter Registration administratively like other states have, giving people the ability to opt out.
Democrats said they will continue working with stakeholders as they draft their bill and prepare it for introduction.