COLUMBUS— State Representative Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) responded today to an announcement by Governor Mike DeWine that state agencies have not been meeting their federally mandated duty to offer voter registration to Ohioans when those Ohioans interact with government offices. Roughly 59,000 voters were affected at one agency.
“Today is Emancipation Day, the day that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1862 for the purpose of abolishing slavery. It is also National Voter Registration Day. I have mixed feelings about these two days sharing a page on the calendar this year because, 158 years later, we are still fighting for the right to vote without obstacles in our path. We still regularly fight for basic voting services like a convenient place to drop your ballot, the inclusion of return postage on our absentee ballots, and an easy way to request those ballots in the first place. And we are also fighting for ease of access to voter registration.
Today, we learned that state agencies have failed in their duty to provide the voter registration opportunity to Ohioans who are supposed to be offered voter registration when they interact with their government. This is a longstanding duty placed on government agencies by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. How has this 27-year-old duty fallen by the wayside? Roughly 59,000 Ohioans tried to use this method of voter registration but were ignored. The state is now playing catch-up.
Last week, we learned that college students at the University of Cincinnati are receiving cryptic error messages by the Secretary of State’s voter registration system when they try to register to vote at their campus address. The Secretary of State defended the practice and says it's because of the BMV. College students have for decades been guaranteed the right to vote in their campus communities. This is not new. Why is the system still failing them? Because the state is not prioritizing their rights.
I am calling on DAS, the BMV, and the Secretary of State to give a full accounting of any problems Ohioans are having with voter registration and what these public offices are doing to immediately fix these problems. Mailing a voter registration form to few thousand people is not enough. Every person who interacts with their government must be provided a voter registration opportunity and we know far more than 59,000 people have been talking to public offices during this pandemic.
It is very hard to celebrate this Emancipation Day when the rights of all Ohioans are still not prioritized by our leaders.”