When this country was founded, not every resident was permitted to participate in our new democracy. It took nearly 200 years and four constitutional amendments to finally include every United States citizen over the age of 18 years to vote in our elections. Through the hard work of advocates and average citizens, voting every November has become one of the many quintessential traditions of our American political system.
However, since the 2004 election debacle, our state has been notoriously infamous for having election irregularities. While every states’ board of elections differs with the specifics of their elections, Ohio is about to change the entire voting landscape. House Bill (HB) 194 threatens and restricts the rights of all Ohio citizens to vote, making it even more difficult, if not impossible, for students to vote.
One of the many regressive aspects of this bill is that it strips voters of the basic right to be directed to the correct precinct. Before, our state elections laws instructed poll workers that they ‘shall’ direct voters to the correct polling location. If passed, the bill will state that poll workers ‘may’ direct voters. This word change is significant because voters often become confused as to where they are supposed to vote. Without requiring poll workers to direct voters to the correct polling location, there is an increased risk of citizens’ votes not counting if they vote in the wrong precinct.
Other provisions in this bill include shortening the vote-by-mail timeframe from 35 to 21 days as well as in-person voting from 35 to 14 days. This would be detrimental to Ohio election turnouts because, in 2008, more than 1.7 million Ohioans voted before Election Day through mail and in-person. In addition, the bill prohibits in-person early voting during the busiest three days of early voting (Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the Election Day on Tuesday).
Additionally, county boards of elections will no longer be able to proactively send request forms for absentee voters. This is crucial because vote-by-mail allows voters the ability to vote more conveniently at home. By eliminating this approach, many people will either forget to vote or update their voter registration. In consequence, this will mean that citizens will either not vote or have to wait in long lines at the polls.
It is embarrassing enough that America has the lowest voter turnout amongst other industrialized nations, but HB 194 will further deter voters from going to the polls. The Republican majority in the Ohio Assembly is playing politics with one of our most fundamental rights. While this election year is not glamorized with a presidential or even congressional race, this Election Day is made as important with issues such as HB 194 and Senate Bill 5. If you want to make a difference, please contact Laura or Chelsea by email to sign the petition.