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Ohio faces a lawsuit over newly signed election changes

A line of early voters stands by a ballot drop box at the Franklin County Board of Elections on October 20, 2020.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
A line of early voters stands by a ballot drop box at the Franklin County Board of Elections on October 20, 2020.

The state is facing a lawsuit over a bill signed on Friday that makes big changes in Ohio’s voting laws. Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine signed that and another bill left over from last year's lame-duck legislative session, and both Republican-backed bills are controversial.

The changes to election laws include requiring voters to show photo ID, allowing just one ballot drop box per county, shortening both the window to request early ballots and the period in which they have to arrive at boards of elections to be counted, among other things.

Almost immediately, a lawsuit was filed by a group representing unions and unhoused Ohioans, from Democratic lawyer Marc Elias. He previously sued and won cases over Ohio’s redistricting process and helped fight lawsuits filed and lost by former President Trump after he lost the 2020 election.

Democrats, civil rights organizations and veterans groups also condemned the signing of the bill.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo said in a statement: “One of Ohioans most sacred rights has now carelessly been trampled on and the will of the voters has been brushed aside."

Former Rep. Connie Pillich, who now heads the Ohio Democratic Party’s Veterans & Military Community Caucus, wrote in a statement: “I am shocked that Gov. DeWine – or any member of the Ohio legislature – would actively disenfranchise our men and women in uniform. But that is precisely what this bill has done.”

Also late on Friday, as his inaugural weekend was getting started, DeWine signed House Bill 507, which could speed up the process of permitting oil and gas drilling on state lands. DeWine had hinted in a year-end interview with the Statehouse News Bureau that he would sign it.

The Ohio Environmental Council's Action Fund said in a statement that they are "deeply disappointed" he didn't veto the bill, which they called unconstitutional.

A statement from the group continued: "This bill is an egregious assault on executive authority, the public’s interest and our state parks and public lands. The bill also furthers fossil fuel misinformation campaigns designed to brand natural gas as ‘green energy,’ a nationwide effort to delay climate action and the transition to a truly clean energy future.”

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.