An aside: it’s striking that provisions in HB294, a recently introduced voting bill, would actually reduce access to early and absentee voting by barring use of drop boxes outside of ten days before an election, taking away the last day of early vote, and shortening the window to request an absentee ballot. One way for SURE not to solve a problem is by doubling down on the things that caused it in the first place. These aspects of HB 294 are motivated NOT by a desire to solve actual hiccups in Ohio’s voting system, but by a wish to curry favor with national politicians who know nothing about Ohio but are seeking to spread distrust in our elections. It’s a shame.
Another important improvement is to adopt Agency Verification & Registration, which would have eligible citizens automatically registered to vote when they interact with the state government in offices such as the BMV (unless they choose to opt-out). Automatic registration of this kind would help ensure that voter rolls are accurate and up to date, and that voters aren’t wrongly removed from the rolls or forced to vote provisionally if they have forgotten to update their address.
The third reform we think is both urgent and easy to achieve is to allow Online Absentee Ballot Requests. Ohioans can already register to vote online. It’s secure, simple, and eliminates the need for election officials to puzzle over handwritten registration forms. Allowing voters to submit online absentee ballot requests would mean greater accuracy and efficiency, and fewer errors and missed deadlines.
Casting a ballot should never be an obstacle course or endurance test. Improvements are possible, necessary, and easy to make. Our democracy is strongest when all can participate. We need to continue to push for reforms that ensure voters have the freedom to vote in the way that is safest and most convenient for them. Let’s do it!
Mia Lewis is Associate Director at Common Cause Ohio. She comes from an organizing and educational background, and is passionate about protecting and expanding the right to vote.