The time is right to make Ohio a Universal Vote by Mail state
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
The Covid-19 crisis is serving as a catalyst for a much-needed discussion about Ohio's and the nation's electoral process. In the wake of Governor DeWine's decision to postpone the March 17 primary, the General Assembly enacted legislation that will result in virtually all Ohioans casting their vote by mail. That's unusual for our state, but it's been done and done well by the five states that have now implemented universal vote by mail systems. Among them is Colorado, which has been recognized as the safest state in America in which to cast a ballot. That's why I'm pleased to announce my support for HB 560 which was introduced by State Reps Michele Lepore-Hagan and Beth Liston on March 25, 2020. This important legislation will create a UVBM system for Ohio based on Colorado's highly-successful and widely-respected model. Along with providing protection for poll workers and voters during the Covid-19 crisis, UVBM offers many other advantages over in-person voting:
Makes voting easy and convenient
Saves millions of dollars
I'm particularly impressed by the impact UVBM has on voter participation, Turnout in general, primary, and off year elections is significantly higher in states that adopted UVBM systems. For example, turnout in total UVBM states in the 2016 presidential election and 2018 midterms significantly exceeded levels reached nationally and in Ohio:
Colorado: 72%, Oregon: 80%, Washington: 78%, Ohio: 64%, National: 60%
Colorado: 66%, Oregon: 69%, Washington: 71%, Ohio: 54%, National: 49%
A study conducted in Utah following the 2016 election showed that turnout in the 21 counties that used UVBM was five to seven percentage points higher than in the eight counties that still used traditional precinct level polling locations. Another study of voting in Utah and Colorado revealed that low propensity voters—young people and minorities—voted at substantially higher rates when UVMB was available. Reps. Lepore-Hagan and Liston addressed many of the other advantages of UVBM in the press release the issued on the day HB 560 was introduced. I look forward to working with them to pass this legislation and ensure that Ohioans can take advantage of all the benefits UVBm offers. To learn more about the system, I encourage you to visit the Vote At Home Institute's website which is an excellent source for information, data, studies, and media reports about UVBM.
Reps. Lepore-Hagan, Liston introduce universal vote-by-mail legislation
HB 560 modernizes Ohio’s election system, increases election security and participation
COLUMBUS- State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Dr. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) today introduced House Bill (HB) 560, legislation that would create a universal vote-by-mail (UVBM) system in Ohio.
“Early last year I began studying UVBM and was immediately impressed with the positive results it produced in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, including increased turnout, enhanced ballot security and reduced costs,” Lepore-Hagan said. “I’m absolutely convinced this system will alleviate the persistent problems that have plagued Ohio’s electoral process for far too long.”
“Those problems were brought into sharp focus by the events surrounding the postponement of the March 17 primary,” Lepore-Hagan continued. “Had UVBM been in place, the election would have proceeded without incident. Instead, we’re in the midst of a constitutional and legal crisis involving one of our most sacred rights: the right to vote. HB 560 is not an expansion of Ohio’s current vote-by-mail system. It’s a new, more secure, more accessible vote-by-mail system.”
“Vote by mail will protect the rights of people in Ohio,” said Liston. “It is a secure way to make sure people can be heard even in a public health emergency or other type of crisis.”
Under the proposed legislation, voters will be able to cast ballots by mail by depositing them in secure drop boxes, Voter Service and Polling Centers (VSPC), or the Board of Elections (BOE) office in the county. Voters will also be able to cast ballots in person at VSPCs or BOE offices. Each paper ballot will carry a unique bar code that the voter can track electronically, and all ballots will be subject to a signature authentication process. Election fraud will be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The UVBM system established by HB 560 is based on Colorado’s, the state that has been named the safest place in the U.S. to cast a ballot.
“Universal vote-by-mail has increased voter participation and election security in the states that have implemented it,” said Lepore-Hagan. “HB 560 is a roadmap that will lead Ohio toward a stronger democracy and brighter future.”
See attached LSC summary and previous release announcing bill introduction for more information on the legislation.