COLUMBUS- State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today issued the following statement in response to House Bill (HB) 680, the Ohio House Republican Caucus general election plan:
“In a world turned upside down by the COVID-19 crisis, it is somewhat comforting to know that some things have not changed: the Republican Party remains reliably and predictably committed to undermining the right to vote.
HB 680 is the latest demonstration of their disdain for democracy as well as their utter disregard for the well-being of the people they were elected to serve.
This ill-conceived legislation stands in stark contrast to the election reform measures crafted by House Democrats. We believe those justifiably concerned about being infected with the coronavirus should not be forced to choose between protecting their health and voting. That is why we proposed mailing every eligible voter in the state an absentee ballot while preserving safe in-person voting. This one step will ensure that Ohioans will have the opportunity to participate in the upcoming election without jeopardizing their health—even if COVID-19 is still a danger this fall.
No one should be shocked that Republicans chose to do the opposite. HB 680 maintains the draconian, multi-step process that requires people to request an absentee application, complete it, return it, wait for a ballot, complete it and return it—and pick up the tab for the postage. The system encompassed in the bill is, as we saw in the primary, a formula for electoral disaster.
And no one should be shocked that House Republicans are once again attempting to undercut, denigrate, and challenge the authority of Governor DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton. While the bill is, from first word to last, laughable, requiring the General Assembly to approve an emergency declaration issued by the Governor and Dr. Acton within three days is ludicrous on its face.
It’s time for Republicans to stop playing games with our democracy and with people’s lives. House Democrats have proposed a safe, reliable process for conducting the Nov. 3 General Election. It adopts best practices from the five states that have implemented universal vote by mail systems, including Colorado which has been rated the most secure state in the nation in which to cast a ballot. It preserves in-person voting for those who want it and makes it easier than ever before for Ohioans to cast their ballots from home if they so choose. And it makes sure that we are prepared to conduct a free and fair election no matter the status of the pandemic in October and November.
It is my sincere hope that the governor and Secretary of State LaRose will reject HB 680 out of hand and join the Democrats and voting rights activists who have a clear vision and viable plan for safeguarding our most precious right: the right to vote.”
House Republican Rep. Cindy Abrams introduced HB 680 which had its first hearing today. The bill does the following:
- Reduces the time for military and non-military voters to vote by mail by seven days;
- Eliminates the last three days of early voting for military and non-military voters;
- Undoes the mailing of absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, a provision that was passed in last year’s budget;
- Replaces the longstanding system of mailing a ballot application to all voters with the mailing of a postcard that is not an application, like what was sent for this recent primary;
- Forbids the Secretary of State from using federal CARES Act and Help America Voter Act funding to pay return postage for ballot applications and ballots;
- Sets an impossible standard for how the state could modify in-person voting in case COVID19 is still a danger this fall. The Governor and ODH director would have to declare the emergency plan by Sept. 4 and the legislature would have until Labor Day, 57 days before the election, to approve the order for it to take effect. This would guarantee that boards of elections would not have the supplies on hand to conduct the election by mail;
- Potentially violates federal statute which sets the election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November;
- Potentially violates the federal Help America Vote Act by unlawfully restricting failsafe provisional ballot access;
- Does not allow for more than one early voting location;
- Removes the state and local health departments’ ability to set standards for the conduct of elections. That means the health officials could not set standards for adequate social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and the use of masks.