COLUMBUS — State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, announced Wednesday her plan to introduce legislation creating a universal vote-by-mail system in Ohio.
“The governor has declared a state of emergency, and the secretary of state is moving 125 polling locations one week from Election Day due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus,” Lepore-Hagan said in a news release. “This situation underscores the need for Ohio to adopt a secure system of voting that will enable residents to cast ballots from home. UVBM also alleviates long lines, confusion over voter ID requirements and public health or other emergencies that make it difficult for people to go to the polls.”
The proposed legislation would allow voters to cast their ballot in a number of ways, including by mail, drop off at a county board of election, Voter Service and Polling Center or secure mail drop boxes that would be located throughout each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Voters also could cast ballots in person at the office of their county’s BOE or VSPC from the start of the early voting period through Election Day. Each paper ballot would carry a unique bar code and would require signature authentication. Election fraud would be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Five states — Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Hawaii and Washington — have adopted UVBM systems. Fifty percent of California voters will cast ballots in vote-by-mail counties in 2020.
“Over the years, Ohio voters have been subjected to a variety of voter suppression efforts. The threat to election security is real in 2020,” Lepore-Hagan added. “We must and we can modernize our voting system. UVBM will assure that every eligible Ohioan has the opportunity to cast their vote and that every vote cast is counted.”
To ensure that the state’s voter file is current and accurate, the UVBM legislation would require the state to update address information at least once a month using the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address system. After comparing the voter file with NCOA data, the voter’s registration would automatically reflect the new address.
Lepore-Hagan is scheduled to meet the Ohio League of Women Voters and other stakeholders at the end of the month to discuss the UVBM proposal.