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Measure Aims to Streamline Absentee Voting in Ohio


Monday, May 16, 2022   

There's a new effort at the statehouse to make it easier for Ohioans to vote by mail by creating a permanent absentee voter list.

To vote absentee under current law, voters must fill out an absentee-ballot request and send it to the board of election before each election. They will then receive a mail-in ballot that must be returned.

State Rep. Michael Skindell - D-Lakewood - recently introduced House Bill 641. He said the list would streamline the process, which would increase voter participation.

"Instead of having to remember the election and mailing in an application to get a ballot," said Skindell, "you can be placed on a list and the board of election will send you out a ballot application before every election."

According to the Secretary of State's Office, there's been an increasing interest in voting by mail in Ohio. Three and a half million absentee ballots were counted in the 2020 general election compared with 1.8 million in the 2016 general election.

Mia Lewis, associate director of Common Cause Ohio, explained the measure would simply remove some of the small hurdles that make the process of voting by mail challenging for certain voters.

"Somebody may say, 'Well, it's so easy to vote,' but it isn't for everyone," said Lewis. "People have different reasons why they aren't able to get out to the polling place. There may be a physical impairment or traveling for work and they may know that they're going to need that absentee ballot every single time."

Skindell said a voter would be removed from the permanent absentee list if their registration is canceled, or if they submit a written request to be removed. And he expects any possible opposition to center around false notions that it would weaken election security.

"They always throw up instances of possible fraud, which has never been proven, things like that," said Skindell. "But it's a good measure to help increase voter participation."

Five other states have similar measures and six states have a permanent list for absentee ballot applications, instead of the ballot itself. In ten other states, voters with a permanent disability can be put on a list to automatically receive an absentee ballot for each election.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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