Ohio HB 294 would enhance voting access in some ways while obstructing it in others
In the context of bills curtailing voter in many states, fierce partisan divisions are already flaring over Ohio’s voting bill HB 294, co-sponsored by Rep. Bill Seitz (R-30) and Rep. Sharon Ray (R-69). It’s crucial to point out that HB 294 includes some provisions that would significantly simplify voter registration and updates, reduce the likelihood that voters will be purged, and also make it easier to request an absentee ballot. Provisions that would inhibit voting include new, severe restrictions on drop boxes, eliminating early voting the day before the election, and shortening the window for requesting an absentee ballot.
The General Assembly is now on break. I recommend that you consider both the positive and negative features of the bill and use the coming weeks to communicate about both to your representative (who you can find at this link: https://ohiohouse.gov/) and to the Chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, Rep. Shane Wilkin, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A courteous, non-partisan and constructive approach could build bipartisan support to keep the parts that make voting easier while dropping those that restrict it. A Capitol Journal article on June 4 suggests that the sponsors are open to some compromise on the bill, though Rep. Seitz threatened that if Democrats “are disingenuous in their opposition” to what he calls “a balanced bill…we might take it in a rightward direction and then give you something to really howl about, OK?”
The bill needs two more hearings in the House committee, one of which will be opponent testimony. You could register as an “interested party” rather than opponent or proponent, if you want to comment on both pros and cons of the bill. As Collin Marozzi of the ACLU-Ohio remarked in a late June briefing to the Ohio Council of Churches, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Pros and cons of HB 294, the “Ohio Election Security and Modernization Act:
On civil rights, fair and equal access to voting is a top priority for the Episcopal Church. Here’s how various parts of HB 294, as introduced, would either improve or inhibit voter participation, particularly for minority or low-income people.
Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team.