Lawmakers could revisit voting bills with renewed interest due to coronavirus

(The Center Square) – Even before this week’s primary election delay, state lawmakers were poised to consider a series of bills aimed at making it easier for voters in Ohio to register to vote and cast ballots, including one that would allow state residents to vote by mail.

The bills could now see renewed urgency in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

House Bill 540 “will allow Ohioans to register to vote or update the address on their voter registration when they go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get or renew a driver’s license or state ID card,” Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said in a news release.

“Doing so will make this process more convenient for Ohioans while maintaining the important safeguards we have in place to prevent voter fraud and protect the integrity of our elections,” Manning added.

The bill would not change any of the current requirements for someone to register to vote in the state, and prospective voters must still be required to be Ohio residents and show they are United States citizens. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office would run the proposed system.

Meanwhile, a Democrat from Youngstown wants a universal vote-by-mail (UVBM) system in Ohio.

Under the UVBM proposal, voters could vote by mail or drop off their ballots at a Voter Service and Polling Center (VSPC), a county Board of Election (BOE) or a secure mail drop boxes to be located in Ohio’s 88 counties. Voters can also cast ballots at their county’s BOE or VSPC.

“Over the years, Ohio voters have been subjected to a variety of voter suppression efforts. The threat to election security is real in 2020,” Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said in a news release. “We must and we can modernize our voting system. UVBM will assure that every eligible Ohioan has the opportunity to cast their vote and that every vote cast is counted.”

The paper ballots will have a unique barcode and require signature authentication to stem fraudulent voting, proponents said. Under the proposal, election fraud will be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Another bill, Senate Bill 191, would allow voters to request an absentee ballot online.

“The recent situation with the election has brought more attention to legislation I sponsored to give Ohioans the option to request an absentee ballot online,” Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, said in a Facebook post.

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