COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Despite strenuous objections from voting rights groups, Ohio House Republicans advanced two proposals on Monday that would add a host of new voting restrictions and place a snag on the ballot. next year that calls for requiring a 60% supermajority to pass future constitutional amendments.
Votes from the party line committee send the measures to potential final House votes as early as Tuesday – the same day, civil rights, environment, labor, faith and other opposition groups plan a rally at the Statehouse in an attempt to stop them. The bill and resolution would then go to the GOP-led Ohio Senate, where action would be needed before the speedy lame duck session ends next week.
After stalling for months, Ohio’s election law amendment bill has received significant rework ahead of Monday’s vote. Passed in the wake of the controversial 2020 election, it was initially touted to combine restrictions with additional conveniences for voters, such as an online mail-in ballot application system.
The latest version shortens from 10 days to seven the time that electoral commissions must receive duly postmarked postal ballots, many of which are from military and foreign voters; eliminate early voting on the Monday before an election and curbside voting; removes a section that would have enabled automated voter registration; and amends current law to prohibit the Secretary of State from mailing unsolicited mail-in ballot requests or paying postage on ballots.
Sponsoring state Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, said he scrapped automated voter registration at the request of the Senate, in order to push the bill through. The current version of his bill also removed a provision that would have allowed voters to use electronic versions of their bank statements and utility bills as voter ID and another that would have expanded the list of activities that prevent voters who miss certain elections from being purged from the rolls.
On Monday, the House Government Oversight Committee also approved a resolution advancing a 2023 ballot measure to require a 60% supermajority to amend Ohio’s constitution.
The issue is championed by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who called it a “victory for good government” that will secure a broad base of support for making changes to the state’s founding document.
The proposal comes as organizations frustrated by Ohio’s repeated adoption of unconstitutional political maps and a near-total state abortion ban that has been blocked by the courts have said they are considering to propose their own amendments. Polls typically place public support for abortion rights at more than half of Americans, but less than 60%.
Republican State Representative Brian Stewart, the sponsor of the resolution, testified last week that he chose the percentage randomly and without input from outside groups.
Among the groups supporting the resolution was the Florida-based Opportunity Solutions project, which tested the 60% threshold among a sample of Ohio voters in a “voter integrity support poll” released in June 2021. Other survey questions tested attitudes toward a variety of additional restrictions on future citizen-directed voting efforts, live broadcast of ballot counting, and the requirement and payment of identity. voters and the extension of legislative authority to local electoral councils.