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Ohio Bills Would Create Automatic BMV Voter Registration Process

Ohio I Voted Stickers
John Minchillo
Associated Press

A pair of bills in the Ohio General Assembly would change the way people register to vote, making it an automatic process instead requiring them to fill out forms or go online. In both, people could still opt out of the process, although the two bills approach the problem differently.

Currently, when you go to the BMV, the clerk should ask if you want to register to vote or update your registration. If you say yes, you are given a form to do that.

However, state Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) says that system isn’t working well.

“When you compare Ohio to the other states surrounding us who are guided also by the Motor Voter law, we don’t perform as good as they do when it comes to voter registration in similar systems," Sweeney says.

Sweeney thinks there are several reasons why Ohioans are not registering to vote or changing their registrations when they go to the BMV.

“There are already long lines at the BMV and they don’t want to have to fill out any more paperwork. People already think they are registered or people at the BMV are not asking for a variety of reason to get people through the line," Sweeney says.

A similar billwas introduced this fall in the Ohio Senate, sponsored by state Sens. Vernon Syke (D-Akron) and Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville). Both theirs and Sweeney’s bill would automatically update voter registrations with the information provided.

People could opt out if they wanted. But unlike the Senate bill, Sweeney's would not allow people to declare a party at the point of registration. They’d still need to do that when they vote in the primary as they currently do. Sweeney’s bill also would use high school enrollment records to register new voters.

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat. Sweeney says no House Republicans have signed onto her bill yet, though she says some have voiced support for it.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.