VOICES: H.B. 294 will bolster election security efforts

The Ohio Election Security and Modernization Act, H.B. 294, is currently in House Committee. Its two sponsors, Bill Seitz and Sharon A. Ray, defend it in a letter to the Minority House Caucus. These are excerpts from their letter.

Our charge as law and policymakers is to ensure a system that enables and protects one of our most cherished rights and responsibilities — the act of voting. Carrying out this task calls for a careful balance between removing unreasonable and unjust barriers to voting, and careful checks and balances to ensure that each citizen’s vote is secure, accurate, and lawful.

As sponsors of the Ohio Election Security and Modernization Act, we address partisan claims regarding H.B. 294 below:

Claim: Limits counties to one ballot drop box location for 10 days before an election — regardless of how large or populated a county is. Voters in Ohio’s highest population counties sat in traffic jams at drop boxes last year but counties will be prohibited from making drop boxes more accessible.

Fact: Currently, there is no authorization in the Ohio Revised Code for county boards of election (BOEs) to use any drop boxes. The bill will allow for an expansion of drop box usage by permitting a county BOE to place up to three receptacles (drop boxes) on its premises, each of which is required to be under 24/7 video surveillance. By permitting up to three, each BOE can place them strategically on their premises to facilitate a smooth drop-off system and avoid long lines of waiting cars.

Claim: The bill doesn’t add any automated voter registration to the voters’ experience. It continues the same Motor Voter policy in place since 1995. In fact, it explicitly excludes online BMV customers from the opportunity to register to vote…

Fact: House Bill 294 builds upon Motor Voter policies from 1995 and creates a modern, innovative system for the BMV to efficiently communicate with the Secretary of State’s voter registration database. Currently, BMVs offer voter registration to customers but they generally do so with a paper form. Under the new system created by this bill, a more secure digital platform will be able to tell a customer if they are currently registered, and allow them to update as much (or as little) information as necessary. It is also important to note that under this bill any interaction with a BMV now counts as a form of voter activity that prohibits a voter from being purged. The second assertion is moot given the creation of the secure, online absentee ballot request system made by the bill.

Claim: Keeps large numbers of young people from requesting mail ballots online by requiring two forms of ID, (incl. photo ID). The Plain Dealer reports that 17% of Ohio 18-year-olds don’t have photo ID.

Fact: This bill actually expands the current list of permissible forms of ID to include any of the following documentation (as long as it shows the voter’s correct address): utility bill, electronic copy of a utility bill, bank statement, and electronic copy of a bank statement. Persons without a photo ID may still request an absentee ballot through the mail, vote early in-person, or vote on Election Day, as none of those forms of voting require a photo ID.

Bill Seitz is Majority Floor Leader Ohio House of Representatives, 30th House District.

Sharon A. Ray is an Ohio State Representative, 69th House District

Credit: Provided

Credit: Provided

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