Free and Fair Elections

We should make it as easy as possible for Ohio citizens who meet the qualifications for voting to register to vote and to actually vote. There is an amendment proposed by Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections that, among other things, ensures that every time a qualified Ohio resident interacts with a state agency (such as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles), that person would be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. A study by the Brennan Center shows that an automatic registration system in a state significantly increases voter registration.

The current Ohio Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, supported this concept in the past. He has also admitted that this would make it unnecessary to purge the voter files since the state would have up-to-date records. Purging the voter files is one of the principal tools of disenfranchising voters. This is particularly true for young and low-income voters who tend to change residences often.

Once people have registered, the State of Ohio should make it as easy as possible for them to vote. The same amendment would restore all the early voting days that were either eliminated or severely restricted during the Kasich administration. This has a bigger impact on lower-income voters who don’t have a flexible work schedule and find it hard to get to the polls. It is especially important to restore the Golden Week, which allows a voter to register and vote on the same day, and expanding Sunday early voting hours to allow churches to have a Souls to the Polls operation.

The current status of the Secure and Fair Election Amendment is that the sponsoring group is trying to gather signatures, which is difficult to do during a pandemic. Originally the Republican dominated Ohio Ballot Board determined that this amendment should be split into four separate amendments which would have made signature collection even more difficult. The Ohio Supreme Court has since ruled that this amendment is one issue, but refused to give the sponsors additional time to gather signatures. If, because of the pandemic, it is not possible to get this amendment on the ballot, the Legislature should act to achieve fair elections.

Five states have already adopted a universal vote-by-mail system. This is another way to get voter participation up in Ohio especially in circumstances where it is difficult to vote. A bill has recently been introduced in the Legislature to accomplish this. Each voter’s ballot would have a unique bar code and can be submitted through the mail, at a secure lock box, or deposited at the polls in either early voting or on Election Day. There is a requirement in the bill that the state update its voter files at least once a month using the National Change of Address System.

To make sure that everybody’s vote counts equally, we need fairly drawn districts. To that end, I have signed the NDRC Fair Districts Pledge. Ohio is so heavily gerrymandered that even though the total vote for the State Legislature was won by the Republicans approximately 52% to 48%, the Republicans hold a super-majority in both the House and the Senate. This leads to legislators who cater to the extreme members of their party, which are the people who vote in the primaries.

American Promise has proposed a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will limit the undo influence of money, especially dark money, in election campaigns. I have proudly signed their pledge to promote this amendment because I feel that ideas should determine the outcome of elections, not money.

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