COLUMBUS –Ahead of the first-ever National Black Voter Day on Sept. 18, Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) issued a statement calling for action to eliminate systemic barriers to voting in Ohio. The call comes as the Ohio Senate considers House Bill (HB) 680, the GOP election bill that would create new voting restrictions like shortening the time for voters to request absentee ballots, eliminating the ability for the secretary of state to prepay return postage for ballot materials, and barring the Health Director and other officials from affecting the conduct of elections—even in the interest of public health.
“Black voters today continue to face systemic barriers to voting, barriers which have only been exacerbated in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Decisions from the Secretary of State, such as not allowing multiple secure drop boxes or online applications for absentee ballots, disenfranchise Black Ohioans. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that crises like the current COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession and calls for racial justice are addressed properly for all communities, but especially for Black communities. We must ensure that the voices of Black Ohioans are heard as we propose solutions to these crises— that starts with implementing meaningful policies to make voting more accessible for all,” said OLBC President Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland).
The GOP elections bill stands in stark contrast to HB 687, the House Democrats’ general elections proposal, which would expand online registration, make it easier for Ohioans to vote by mail, and protect in-person voting opportunities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
House Democrats have also continued to call on Secretary of State Frank LaRose to do everything in his power to make voting more accessible for voters in these unprecedented times. On Aug. 18, the caucus provided LaRose a 16-point checklist of what they would like to see from his office, including:
· Multiple secure drop boxes
· Paying return postage
· Keeping all polling locations open
· Online absentee ballot application
Below are also some important dates to remember for this election.
· Sept. 18: Military early voting starts/National Black Voter Day
· Oct. 5: Voter registration deadline
· Oct. 6: Early voting starts for everyone
· Oct. 31 by NOON: Deadline to request an absentee ballot
· Nov. 2: Postmark absentee ballot if returning by mail
· Nov. 3 by 7:30 p.m.: Submit absentee ballot to BOE if returning in person
· Nov. 3, in-person voting from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Election Day