COLUMBUS—Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) issued a statement today as Republican lawmakers voted to fast-track legislationthat does little to prepare the state’s Boards of Elections to safely conduct a presidential election amid the worst global pandemic in more than a century.
House Bill (HB) 680 shortens the time for voters to request absentee ballots, eliminates the ability for the secretary of state to prepay return postage for ballot applications, and bars the Health Director and other officials from affecting the conduct of elections—even at the risk of public health.
“Ohioans cannot afford a repeat of the chaos and uncertainty that surrounded the most recent election. We need a real plan, and House Bill 680 falls woefully short,” said Rep. Sweeney. “HB 680 fails to include commonsense solutions, like my amendment to prepay postage, that would have made it easier for people to vote. During one of the most turbulent times in modern memory when November is no clearer than tomorrow, it is deeply disappointing that HB 680 neither makes voting easier nor learns from the March Primary Election. Perpetuating the status quo is unacceptable when we should be preparing for every eventuality.”
The bill stands in stark contrast to the Democrats’ proposal, HB 687, which would expand online registration, make it easier for Ohioans to vote by mail, and protect safe, accessible in-person voting opportunities amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 2,000 Ohioans.
Democrats offered several amendments on the floor, including:
- Removing the prohibition on officials from affecting the conduct of elections, which would limit the ability of Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton to determine if in-person voting is safe this November, which was sponsored by Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington).
- Allowing the secretary of state to prepay return postage for ballot applications and absentee ballots, sponsored by Rep. Sweeney.
- Removing confusion by allowing ballots to be postmarked by Election Day, rather than the day before Election Day, which was sponsored by Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati).
- Mailing ballots to every voter for this November’s presidential election, sponsored by Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown).
- Removing language that ends Early Voting at 6 p.m. the Friday before the election, sponsored by Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo).
Republicans rejected each of the Democratic amendments along party lines.
After a party-line vote, HB 680 now moves to the Senate for consideration.