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Lawmaker Proposes Automatic Voter Registration In Ohio

Ohio I Voted Sticker
Nick Houser

A Democratic lawmaker is pushing to overhaul the voter registration system in Ohio by making it a system where people can choose to opt out of registering to vote rather than opting in.

The plan automatically registers Ohioans to vote through a variety of channels such as using data from drivers’ licenses and high school enrollment.

Democratic Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent says this will change the culture of voting in Ohio.

“The registration should be an opt out system not an opt in system and we already have the data sharing capability in Ohio, it’s in use and it’s available.”

Clyde’s bill would also automatically register people who interact with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The representative, who is considering a 2018 bid for Secretary of State, says automatic voter registration can improve voter turnout.

“I’d like to focus on that issue and states that have adopted voter registration reforms like this have seen a dramatic increase in their voter turnout and I hope we can bring that here to Ohio,” said Clyde.

Republican Senator Frank LaRose, who’s also thinking about a run for Secretary of State, disputes that argument.

“There’s no linear relationship between levels of voter registration and levels of voter participation. Now what does impact voter participation is when people get excited about an election, that’s why we see higher turnout in presidential years,” LaRose said.

Josh Eck is the spokesperson for Secretary of State Jon Husted. Eck says automatically registering people to vote can be an intrusion. He notes there are people who intentionally don’t register, such as domestic violence victims and police officers.

“The thing that is most alarming about this proposal is that it forces people who have legitimate safety concerns to be registered with a public agency without asking them and without giving them the opportunity to keep their information safe at the onset,” Eck said.

Clyde’s bill does allow anyone to opt out of that registration within 21 days.

This year Ohio became the latest state to allow online voter registration. Clyde believes automatic voter registration is the natural next step to expanding voter access. Democrats around the country have been working in several states to pass similar proposals.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.