Ohio is the latest state to try to restrict early voting


H.B. 294 targets absentee ballots as well as early in-person voting.

Two GOP members of the Ohio General Assembly introduced a voter suppression bill on Thursday, making the Buckeye State the seventh that Donald Trump won in 2020 where Republicans are trying to make it harder to cast ballots.

Like many of the pieces of legislation that have either passed state legislatures or are moving toward passage, H.B. 294 targets absentee ballots as well as early in-person voting, two voting methods Trump railed against and has demanded Republicans limit in future elections.

The Ohio House bill would slash the number of absentee ballot drop boxes in the state to just one per county and cut the number of days voters have to drop ballots off from 30 down to just 10.

The bill would also eliminate the Monday before Election Day as an early in-person voting day.

"When it comes to anti-voter legislation, Ohio Republicans have set a new standard," Liz Walters, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, said in a statement. "Instead of working to improve the process, GOP politicians in Columbus are ignoring concerns from voting rights experts and plowing ahead with the most regressive measures we’ve seen yet. This bill has nothing to do with modernization, it only serves to take Ohio further back in the fight for voting rights in our state."

Ohio's bill shares strong similarities to voter suppression laws passed in three other states.

A law passed by Republicans in Iowa cuts back the number of early in-person voting days.

Republicans in Arkansas tried to pass a bill that cut the Monday before Election Day from the early voting period, but it failed even in the overwhelmingly Republican House.

The Ohio bill also makes it harder to vote absentee by limiting the use of ballot drop boxes — similar to voter suppression laws passed by Republicans in Georgia and Florida.

Florida limited the number of ballot drop boxes per county and required those boxes to be manned by staff. Voters can only drop off ballots at a drop box during regular early voting hours,— and election officials who violate the rule could be hit with $25,000 fines.

Georgia also limited the number of ballot drop boxes that can be used per county, reducing the number in future elections in heavily Democratic counties that used drop boxes at higher rates in the 2020 election.

Both of those laws have met a backlash from voting rights advocates and major corporations that have come out against restricting the right to vote.

The voting bills in these states are part of the nationwide GOP effort to make it harder to vote in the wake of Trump's loss to Joe Biden, which Trump has blamed falsely on absentee ballot dumping and other forms of voter fraud that even his own attorney general acknowledged did not take place.

Trump has continued to encourage Republicans to make it harder to vote, specifically calling for limits on early in-person voting.

"Today I want to outline the steps that we must take to have an election system in this country that is honest, fair, and accurate," Trump said in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference: "We need one Election Day, not 45, 30, one day like it's been."

Trump has also told Republicans to make it harder to vote absentee, saying absentee ballots should only be used in limited circumstances, even though Trump requested an absentee ballot himself for a March municipal election in his home state of Florida.

"There should be a legitimate reason for someone to vote absentee, has to have a reason. We should eliminate the insanity of mass and very corrupt mail-in voting," Trump said in his CPAC address.

The Brennan Center for Justice, which is tracking the voter suppression legislation, says more than 360 bills that would make it harder to vote have been introduced across the country in 2021. The center called the influx of legislation "startling," saying the bills were introduced "under the pretense of responding to baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.