Voting experts: 2020 election in Ohio smooth but reforms needed

Voting experts give Ohio’s poll workers and elections administrators high marks for a smooth general election but argue that the state could take steps to make casting ballots easier for Ohioans in the future.

Former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, who also served eight years as secretary of state, called the 2020 election administration impressive and swift.

Despite a huge surge in early voting and challenges of a global pandemic, Ohio carried out the election with just minor glitches, said Aaron Ockerman, director of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials.

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But voting rights advocates said Ohio needs to clear away barriers to make voting in the next election easier. Suggestions for improvements include: allowing for online requests for absentee ballots, adding more secure ballot drop boxes, expanding the number of early in-person voting centers, implementing automatic voter registration and improving ballot tracking and analysis systems.

“Ohio needs to firmly invest in early voting,” said Jen Miller, director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

The Dayton Daily News assembled a panel of elections experts to answer questions about voting and the logistics of running a major election. They spoke Wednesday during a live panel discussion on the Dayton Daily News Facebook page.

Panelists include: Ockerman; Miller; Taft, who is on faculty at the University of Dayton; Collin Marozzi, policy strategist for the ACLU of Ohio; and Kyle Strickland, senior legal analyst at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity at Ohio State University.

Taft said Ohio should consider how the 2020 election might change voting patterns in future elections as more voters opt for absentee or early in-person voting.

Strickland agreed, saying, “People shouldn’t have to wait hours to vote.”

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While voters handed Republican President Donald Trump a clear victory in Ohio, the president and his campaign are raising the specter of voter fraud and Trump prematurely claimed he won.

Strickland said it’s outrageous for Trump and his team to put out messages that undermine the election process.

Taft said: “It’s misleading because obviously what is going to matter is the fact that all these states are still counting votes and we have to be patient and wait for that process to work itself out. Once the votes are counted, I have confidence in elections officials across the country, as I do in the state of Ohio. So I think we then have to accept their results and we have to be a little patient. COVID is teaching us a lot of patience. I think this election is teaching us a lot of patience.”

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