Voter Access

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. State Senator Bride Rose Sweeney has introduced a bill that 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 state should 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.

Ohio can also learn lessons from other states. Texas uses Volunteer Deputy Registrars to go to the potential voter, get a registration form, and turn it in to the local Board of Elections. Some states allow citizens as young as 16 to register to vote as long as they will be 18 by the general election. In a few states, schools provide registration material to students who will turn 18 before the next general election. This should be made mandatory for Ohio schools.

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.

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