Ohio voting law overhaul trims mail ballot window by 3 days

State

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A significant rewrite of Ohio’s election laws was amended Thursday to trim the window after an election for mailed military and overseas ballots to arrive at election boards by three days, a move the bill’s sponsor said was in response to post-2020 pressures the public has placed on vote counting.

Sponsoring state Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, said the reduction was “in the interest of getting an accurate count without having to wait forever, like we’re waiting on the United States House of Representatives.” Though results of House races in some states, including California, continue to be tallied, election officials emphasize that the duration of the count is not a sign of irregularities.

The latest version of the Ohio bill also strikes sections that would have set up an online absentee ballot request system and allowed for automated voter registration. Seitz said, though he believes in the latter, the Ohio Senate had objections to it — and “it takes two to tango.”

He said separate legislation expected to add further restrictions to Ohio’s voter ID law will be coming later from the Senate. It was unclear whether that bill will make IDs available for free, a proposition Seitz had been discussing.

Voting rights advocates continued to object to the bill overall.

Chris Tavenor, of the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, said eliminating in-person voting on the Monday before Election Day, limiting the location of drop boxes to county boards of elections and adding — rather than removing — restrictions to voting absentee “make it less likely that people participate in our democracy.”

Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said her organization supports such elements of the bill as added funding for e-pollbooks.

“On balance, though, this bill would make elections more difficult and more expensive for election officials and voters alike,” she testified.

Miller said shrinking the window for absentee ballots postmarked by the Monday before an election to arrive will not only impede voters, but place additional pressure on election workers and postal carriers at a busy time.