Ohio leaders propose changes that could impact how voters obtain, return ballots in coming elections

COLUMBUS — Ohio is looking at the possibility of implementing a new set of rules that could change the way voters get their ballots and submit them.

The new voting plan has not yet had its first hearing at the statehouse, but multiple people hold different opinions on the potential rules.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the state is coming off of a successful election in November 2020 with no major problems, but still he and lawmakers want to make changes in what is termed a modernization plan.

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The first move is a request from election boards to eliminate the Monday of early voting the day before the election and move those hours to an earlier date.

“The problem is there’s so much preparation work to be done for Tuesday election they cannot load any of the poll books until everyone has voted so they don’t even get to start those things until two or three in the afternoon,” said Sharon Ray, the bill’s sponsor and Northeast Ohio State Representative.

However, critics consider these possible changes to be voter suppression.

An additional idea being proposed would make it a law that counties can only have ballot drop boxes at the board offices and nowhere else.

“Look, this is really gonna harm people who don’t have access to transportation who live further out from downtown Dayton where the Montgomery County Board of Elections is who are going to have to find a way to commute to drop off their ballot,” said Desiree Tims, president and CEO of Innovation Ohio.

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Right now, the postal system remains an option to return ballots.

In the past year, other states have made more aggressive moves to limit access to mail-in balloting. Ohio’s democrats and League of Women Voters are trying to stop some of these changes.

Ray said her intention is to modernize, not limit access.

“We want to listen to everybody’s thoughts because in the end we want it to be the best bill for all of us,” she said.

After weeks of anticipation, the plan has finally been introduced and formal hearings could begin next week.