July 21, 2020 — House Bill 680 Opponent Testimony
Ohio Senate Committee on Government Oversight and Reform
Jaime Miracle, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Deputy Director

Chairman Coley, Ranking Member Craig, and members of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, my name is Jaime Miracle and I am the Deputy Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. I am here to testify on behalf of our more than 50,000 members and activists against House Bill 680.

“My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” – Representative John Lewis, 2012

In the words of Representative John Lewis, a civil rights icon our country lost just days ago, voting is precious, almost sacred. Our right to vote is our way to speak in our democracy. It is our voice. At a time when our democracy is facing great challenges, a global pandemic, global uprisings against racism, our state and our nation should be doing everything it possibly can to protect the right to vote for all of its citizens. H.B. 680 does the opposite.

This bill will force Ohioans to pay for postage on absentee ballot applications and on the absentee ballot. It limits each county to only one Early Vote location and one location for a ballot drop box, no matter how large the county. It forces Ohioans to use an antiquated system of mailing in a ballot application rather than applying for the ballot online. It shortens the absentee ballot request deadline by four days, limiting the time voters have to request a ballot through this antiquated system. And it prohibits the governor and health director from taking actions to protect voters in a public health crisis.

All of these changes would be bad in a normal year, but 2020 is anything but a normal year. The only way for a voter to vote without risking their health during a global pandemic is to vote by mail. We should be making that system easier by at least allowing applications to be submitted online and paying the return postage on the ballot itself. By requiring postage not once but twice this state is in effect imposing a poll-tax on anyone wanting to vote by mail.

Forcing each county to only have one Early Vote location and ballot drop box forces people to travel long distances, sometimes in rural counties without any access to public transportation, and concentrates people to one location, a very bad idea in the midst of a global pandemic. Finally, we cannot limit the powers of the governor and health director to protect Ohioan’s lives during a public health crisis.

In the words of our Ohio Secretary of State in a letter he wrote to the legislature on March 21st of this year, “A plan that does not afford every Ohioan an opportunity to vote free of charge would be unconstitutional.” It is curious that this line is now absent from his talking points.

Every Ohioan must have the right to vote, free of charge, in a manner that protects their health and the health of their loved ones. We must do better. Please put this dangerous bill on a shelf and start from scratch. Pass a bill that allows voters to apply for an absentee ballot online, pays for the return postage on every absentee ballot, and allows counties to decide how many early vote and ballot drop box locations their counties need.. Pass a bill that helps every Ohioan vote, not one that puts obstacles in front of them to block their rights.

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