OHIO

 

Candidates

Mike Larsen for US Congress, running against Jim Jordan, wrote for comedians

Voter Issues

APRIL 2020

  • Bottom line: Democrats can flip the Ohio Supreme Court from Republicans

  • Composition: 5 Republicans, 2 Democrats

  • 2020 elections: 2 seats up (nonpartisan with partisan primaries)

    • Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy, first elected in 2012, faces Democratic Cuyahoga County trial court Judge John O'Donnell, who narrowly lost in 2016 for another Supreme Court seat

    • Republican Justice Judith French, appointed in 2013 by ex-Gov. John Kasich (R), faces Democratic Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer Brunner, who won one term as secretary of state in 2006

Ohio is often described as a state that recently enacted redistricting reforms, but those measures were largely window dressing that will do little to stop Republican gerrymandering as-is. However, Democrats have the chance to take control of the state Supreme Court, which could actually put some teeth into those reforms and stop extreme GOP maps.

• Ohio: On Friday, a federal district court rejected a lawsuit that had been brought earlier in the week by civil rights groups seeking an order that Ohio officials delay the state's April 28 primaries and mail ballots (with postage-paid return envelopes) to every voter who has not yet voted.

Under a new law recently signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, the state will eliminate almost all in-person voting. Instead, it will send postcards to voters explaining how to request an absentee ballot application. Voters would then have to print out applications on their own, or request one be mailed to them, and then mail them in. (Applications cannot be submitted online, but GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose said voters who lack a printer could make a hand-written request so long as they provide the necessary information.) They would then have to mail in their absentee ballots.

The voting rights advocates who brought this suit had argued that there isn't enough time to complete this multi-step process before April 28 and wanted the court to pick a new date. Plaintiffs also said the state's voter registration period, which ended on Feb. 18, must be immediately re-opened until 30 days before voting concludes in order to comply with federal law, but the judge denied their motion for a temporary restraining order.

• Ohio: Civil rights groups, including the League of Women Voters, have filed a lawsuit asking that a federal judge order Ohio officials to delay the state's April 28 primaries and mail ballots (with postage-paid return envelopes) to every voter who has not yet voted.

Under a new law recently signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, the state will eliminate almost all in-person voting. Instead, it will send postcards to voters explaining how to request an absentee ballot application. Voters would then have to print out applications on their own, or request one be mailed to them, and then mail them in—they cannot be submitted online. They would then have to mail in their absentee ballots.

The voting rights advocates who've brought this suit say there isn't enough time to complete this multi-step process before April 28 and want the court to pick a new date. Plaintiffs also say the state's voter registration period, which ended on Feb. 18, must be immediately re-opened until 30 days before voting concludes in order to comply with federal law.

MARCH 2020

• Ohio: Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has signed a law that the GOP legislature unanimously passed to extend the time to vote absentee by mail in the state's presidential and downballot primaries until April 28. There would be limited in-person voting only for people with disabilities or who lack a home address, and voters would also be able to drop off absentee ballots in person on that day, but ballots would have to be mailed by April 27 and be received by May 8 in order to count. However, voting rights groups have expressed serious reservations about the plan and say they may sue.

Under the bill, the state would send postcards to voters explaining how to request an absentee ballot application. Voters would then have to print out applications on their own, or request one be mailed to them, and then mail them in—they cannot be submitted online. They would then have to mail in their absentee ballots (though these at least would come with a postage-paid envelope).

• Ohio: Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose says he will propose legislation to mail every Ohio voter who has not yet cast a ballot in the state's canceled March 17 primaries a postage-paid application for an absentee ballot which they could then return to receive an actual mail-in ballot that would also be postage-paid.

It's not clear by exactly what date voters would have to return their ballots, though in a letter to lawmakers, LaRose says he believes the election has "effectively" been "extend[ed]" through June 2. In addition, LaRose is asking for the "discretion" to hold in-person voting on that day, meaning he might envision cancelling in-person voting altogether. LaRose has asked members of the legislature, who are reconvening this week, to pass his bill, though a copy does not appear to be available yet

• Ohio: A panel of three judges on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a district court decision, ruling that election officials do not have to extend the deadline for sending absentee ballots to those who are in jail awaiting trial. The lower court had blocked Ohio from enforcing its normal absentee ballot deadline for those inmates, which is the Saturday before Election Day, because it was tighter than the deadline for people in other emergency situations, such as those in the hospital, who have until 3 PM on Election Day to request a ballot.

This ruling means that anyone who hasn't already voted early and is arrested and jailed within the last few days preceding an election will be disenfranchised even though they haven't been convicted of a crime. The 6th Circuit, however, concluded that requiring election officials to provide ballots to individuals who find themselves in such situations (around 1,000 in a typical election) would be too burdensome on election officials and said that Ohioans could mitigate their risk by voting early. Plaintiffs have not said whether they will appeal.

• Ohio: Ohio's Supreme Court, which has a 5-2 conservative majority, has agreed to hear a legal challenge by the ACLU seeking to overturn a recent party-line decision by the state's Ballot Board to split a far-reaching voting rights initiative into four separate measures because it allegedly violated the single-subject limit for a ballot initiative. The ACLU is continuing to gather the signatures needed for each of the four measures, but if the group prevails in court, the measures would be reconsolidated.

The proposal includes automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, a guaranteed number of early voting days, a ban on tightening Ohio's voter ID law to exclude non-photo IDs, and a requirement to carry out routine audits of election results.

• Ohio: Ohio's Ballot Board, which is responsible for deciding whether proposed ballot initiatives address only a single topic, ruled this week that a measure to expand voting rights must be divided into four separate parts, with all three Republican members backing the split and both Democrats opposing it. In response, the groups behind the drive have filed a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court, which has a 5-2 GOP majority, to overturn the board's decision.

But if it stands, the move would require supporters to collect signatures for all four measures separately, though voters would be able to sign petitions for each. It would also shorten the amount of time activists have to gather signatures, since organizers would have to begin the process for gaining approval to start circulating petitions anew—something they've already done, in case their legal challenge fails.

FEBRUARY 2020

• Ohio: Republican state Attorney General Dave Yost has approved the ballot summary language for a proposed constitutional amendment to expand voting access after he previously rejected it as allegedly misleading. The initiative will still need to be approved by Ohio's Ballot Board, which is responsible for determining whether the measure complies with the state constitution's requirement that such initiative address only a single subject. If it clears that hurdle, supporters would need to gather 443,000 signatures by July 1 to make the November ballot.

As we've previously detailed, the initiative would enact same-day voter registration; automatic registration through Ohio's driver's licensing agency; a guarantee of four weeks of early voting including the two weekends before Election Day; a ban on tightening Ohio's voter ID law to exclude non-photo IDs; and a requirement to conduct routine audits of election results.

• Ohio: Republican state Attorney General Dave Yost has rejected the proposed ballot summary language for a sweeping constitutional amendment that would significantly expand voting access in Ohio if it qualifies for the 2020 ballot. Yost ruled that the summary was too long and that its description of acceptable forms of voter ID wasn't included in the amendment. Supporters have said they will revise and resubmit the summary language. If it ultimately survives scrutiny, they would still have to gather 443,000 signatures to make the November ballot.

As we've previously detailed, the initiative would enact same-day voter registration; automatic registration through Ohio's driver's licensing agency; a guarantee of four weeks of early voting including the two weekends before Election Day; a ban on tightening Ohio's voter ID law to exclude non-photo IDs; and a requirement to conduct routine audits of election results.

JANUARY 2020

 

Ohio: Voting rights advocates in Ohio have filed a proposed ballot initiative that would amend Ohio's constitution to implement a massive expansion of voting accessibility if it qualifies for the ballot and passes.

The initiative would enact same-day voter registration; automatic registration through Ohio's driver's licensing agency; a guarantee of four weeks of early voting including the two weekends before Election Day; a ban on tightening Ohio's voter ID law to exclude non-photo IDs; and a requirement to conduct routine audits of election results.

Ohio currently requires voters to be registered 30 days before Election Day, which is the longest deadline allowed by federal law. Furthermore, successive Republican secretaries of state have made Ohio ground zero for voter registration purges over the past decade, leading to a major 2018 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for Republicans in Ohio and other states to effectively purge eligible voters for simply exercising their right not to vote. Voters who aren't informed that their registration was invalidated would have no recourse if they show up to vote on Election Day, but adopting same-day registration would ensure they could still vote.

The initiative is being spearheaded by the ACLU and its allies. A similar coalition spearheaded a comparable ballot initiative that Michigan voters approved by a 2-1 landslide in 2018. If the proposed Ohio amendment is approved by Republican state Attorney General Dave Yost's office for circulation, proponents would need to gather roughly 443,000 signatures to get on the ballot and then win support from a majority of voters in November.

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