COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) – From photo ID requirements to rule changes for absentee ballots, the Ohio state legislature is considering changes to Ohio’s voting laws.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers say the changes proposed by Republican lawmakers are unnecessary and designed to suppress votes. Democrats call the proposed legislation the “anti-voter bill.”
Republicans have said the changes are necessary to increase trust and remove doubt in Ohio elections.
FOX 8 reached out to the key sponsors of the bill, House Bill 294, but none of them were available Tuesday to speak about it.
“It is a solution in search of a problem. There is no need for this bill whatsoever,” said state representative Richard Brown, D-District 20.
Several Democratic state lawmakers held a virtual news conference Tuesday to speak out against House Bill 294, known as the Ohio Election Security and Modernization Act.
“We’re trying to fix problems that we don’t have and what we do is end up still alienating voters from being able to simply go vote,” said state representative Catherine Ingram, D-District 32
The bill was first introduced by Republican Bill Seitz about a year and a half ago. It has gone through several changes, as recently as Tuesday when the Senate Local Government Committee took a look at it.
In June of last year, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose supported much of the bill.
“It is irresponsible to hype and claim widespread voter fraud and it’s irresponsible to hype and claim widespread voter suppression,” LaRose said at the time.
The updated version of House Bill 294, that the state senate is reviewing, would require mail-in ballots to arrive by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
Currently, ballots can arrive 10 days after the election and still be counted if they were postmarked the day before the election.
It would limit the number of drop boxes to one per county, with 24-hour surveillance and require voters to show photo ID, which state representative Seitz addressed in a hearing last month.
“If their bill gets over here and we pass it, there will no longer be any need for people to use a utility statement, bank statement, etc. because we will be issuing a free photo ID to anybody that wants one, who doesn’t have a driver’s license,” said state representative Bill Seitz R-District 30 in November.
“The concerns that we and other voting rights advocates have always had with photo ID is that it can be extremely difficult, particularly the address requirements for students, college students, for young adults for individuals who may have to move frequently,” said state representative Allison Russo D-District 24.
The bill would require voters to request an absentee ballot seven days before the election, instead of the current three, but would allow Ohioans to request a ballot online.
“The former bill said we had to make that deadline 10 days. Now we’re going to make it seven days. I think that still cuts it awful close,” said Seitz.
“Republicans are just now trying to jam House Bill 294 through, hoping no one would notice it. We’re making sure that people notice,” said Rep. Brown.
There is a separate bill, House Bill 458, which would strictly limit August special elections.
Another hearing on House Bill 294 is scheduled for Wednesday.