(The Center Square) – House Democrats have rolled out what they say is a proposal to hold a “safe” presidential election in November amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan includes mailing ballots to every voter in the state along with return postage. They also want any ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted, as well as the option for safe in-person voting opportunities.
“During this pandemic we have a duty to protect Ohioans’ rights,” state Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, said in a statement. “We can protect people’s health and their liberty. It is not either/or. We have put together a proposal that balances trusted voting methods for all Ohio voters.
“By expanding and improving absentee mail voting, we will help people stay safe when they vote while also taking pressure off the in-person polling places that many people still rely on,” Hicks-Hudson added. “This plan is responsive to the needs of Ohioans and the stakeholders that have worked so hard to improve our elections.”
Opponents of the Democrats’ proposal say it could add thousands of “abandoned registrations” to the state’s voter rolls and threaten election security.
Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Frank LaRose “began working with majority legislative leaders on proposals to ensure that this November is a safe, fair, and accessible election in which voters can vote in-person on Election Day, early in-person, or absentee by mail as they have for decades in Ohio, and we welcome anyone to the conversation who shares those goals,” Maggie Sheehan, press secretary for the Ohio Secretary of State, said in an email.
LaRose’s proposal includes more time for voters to request an absentee ballot, allowing voters to request a vote-by-mail ballot online and federal funding to cover the cost of postage for elections mail. He also called for increased flexibility for counties’ administration of in-person voting, empowering local election officials to strengthen infrastructure and increase personnel and allowing younger Ohioans to serve as poll workers.
LaRose also said in-person voting during August’s special elections is unnecessary.
Elections have been a hot topic since the last-minute delay of the March 17 primary because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The day before the primary, Gov. Mike DeWine delayed voting and urged the state to move the election to June 2. However, lawmakers voted to extend absentee voting by mail for the election to April 28.
“The confusion-riddled, problem-laden primary election was a travesty,” Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said in a statement. “We can and we must do better in November by encouraging people to vote from the safety of their homes.
“Mailing every registered voter a ballot and giving them sufficient time to complete and return it will protect the health of all Ohioans and strengthen our democracy,” Lepore-Hagan added. “Our proposal is the best way to ensure the integrity of our electoral process during these challenging times.”