Ohio to Consider Automatic Voter Registration

[Image via 614now]

Yesterday, Ohio’s new Secretary of State announced a bipartisan effort to consider automatic voter registration – with a possibility that it could be in place for the 2020 election. Cincinnati.com has more:

Ohioans should be automatically registered to vote when they renew their driver’s license, get their annual fishing license or file their taxes, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Wednesday.

LaRose, a Republican, plans to work with legislative Republicans and Democrats on legislation to establish automatic voter registration when Ohioans submit their information through various state channels.

There would be an opportunity to opt-out of registration, a reversal of the current process where Ohio voters “opt-in” by submitting a paper voter registration form, signing-up on line or checking a box while at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

“If you are someone who is concerned about election integrity and preventing fraud, maintaining accurate lists is one of the absolute best ways possible to prevent fraud,” LaRose said at a Wednesday press conference. “If you’re somebody who like me is concerned that absolutely every Ohioan can participate in the civic exercise of being a registered voter and participating in our elections, this is a great way to do that as well.”

The SoS noted that the proposal won’t end the state’s policy of removing inactive voters from the rolls but that AVR could make such actions far more rare:

LaRose doesn’t plan to end the state’s practice of canceling voter registrations after a six-year period of inactivity, but he said automated registration would make that process practically unnecessary.

LaRose expects legislation to be introduced in a few months. If passed this fall, his office would be ready to implement it to register voters for the 2020 presidential election.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio supports automatic registration, and league members have been talking with legislators about the idea.

“We hope this will get rid of the process that was implemented under the last secretary of state that purged so many otherwise eligible Ohioans,” Jen Miller, the league’s executive director, said.

AVR was an issue in the 2018 campaign, but LaRose says the issue transcends partusanship:

Automatic voter registration was a big issue for LaRose’s 2018 opponent, former Democratic Rep. Kathleen Clyde. Clyde introduced a bill that would have enrolled voters when they turn 18 in high school or enroll in a government assistance programs, as well as at the BMV.

LaRose said last year he was working on his own version of an “opt-out” system.

Automatic voter registration has been championed by Democrats, but Republican-led states such as West Virginia and Georgia have made the switch in recent years.

LaRose is partnering with Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville; Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron; and Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland.

Sweeney said it’s not a Republican or Democratic issue: “This is part of the puzzle, the solution to increasing voter turnout.”

Given the ongoing battles over voter registration in Ohio, this is a significant step; however, because of the those battles – and the fierce partisan divide in the legislature – I wouldn’t assume that passage of an AVR will happen swiftly or easily if it even happens at all. Still, it’s definitely newsworthy for Ohio to see the SoS and lawmakers talking with (instead of at) one another on an issue of this magnitude. Stay tuned…

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