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Ohio Professor Believes Voter Registration Amendment Could Boost Turnout

Debbie Holmes

An Ohio State University elections law professor says a proposed constitutional amendment on voter registration would likely lead to more engagement.

The proposed petition calls for a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would create automatic voter registration through the BMV (with the ability to opt out); allow same-day registration and voting; deliver ballots to overseas military members and citizens in a timely fashion; and guarantee 28 days of early voting.

Dan Tokaji, a professor at the Moritz College of Law, says these provisions lift barriers to elections and can result in higher voter turnout.

"And they also help diversify the electorate, bringing in at least some voters who are less likely to participate," Tokaji says.

The ACLU of Ohio is working on building what it calls a broad-based coalition of advocates for this ballot initiative. The group that filed the petition language with the Ohio Attorney General is called Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections.

Tokaji says that, while some of these provisions are already implemented, this ballot initiative would create stronger protections.

"It's important to put these in the constitution because otherwise partisan politicians will mess with it,” Tokaji says.” They can easily remove something that is just made in statute.”

The Ohio Attorney General's Office has until February 3 to respond to the petition language.

As of now, there is no organized opposition to the proposal. The Ohio legislature is currently considering bills, SB 186 and HB 466, to create automated voter registration with the ability to opt out.

To get on the November ballot, the group would have to collect 442,958 valid signatures from around Ohio by the start of July.

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.