The Ohio Association of Elected Officials testified as an interested party and successfully argued for a change to the bill to allow Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters this fall.
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“It is unfathomable to election officials that the legislature would encourage in-person voting by discouraging absentee voting this November,” said Michelle Wilcox, president of the OAEA, in written testimony. “During this pandemic, when we will be scrambling for every polling location we can find and every poll worker we can hire, discouraging early voting by disallowing this mailing is a recipe for trouble.”
Legislators removed the provision that would have blocked LaRose from mailing applications.
Despite that change, voting rights groups still oppose the bill.
In a written statement, All On The Line State Director Katy Shanahan blasted the legislation, saying it’ll make voting by mail more difficult and voting in person less safe. The organization is dedicated to opposing gerrymandering.
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“In its current form, despite nominal improvements included in some amendments, HB 680 is nothing more than reckless voter suppression. We are disappointed to see, once again, Ohioans shut out of the legislative process and the legislature quickly advancing a bill that will wreak lasting damage to November’s election,” she said. “Our collective driving purpose should be to make the path to the ballot box safe and easily accessible for all voters. HB 680 does just the opposite.”
AARP Ohio asked lawmakers to change the bill to allow for online absentee ballot requests, prepaid return postage-paid envelopes for applications and ballots, expanding the number of places voters may drop off absentee ballots, extending the number of days Ohioans may vote early and mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters.
Democrat-offered amendments to accomplish some of these suggestions were tabled.