WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ohio Republicans finally introduced their first major voter suppression legislation of 2021 on Thursday. Reps. Bill Seitz (R) and Sharon Ray (R) sponsored House Bill 294, which would limit the number of drop boxes to one location per county and only allow drop boxes to be used in the 10 days leading up to Election Day — a significant decrease from 2020, when voters had 30 days to return their ballot via drop box. Boxes would also only be allowed outside of the county Board of Elections offices — voters living far from these offices would have to find another way to return their ballots. The bill also proposes new restrictions on registration and absentee voting, including limits on the types of absentee ballots that can be “cured” (the process of fixing small mistakes made by voters so they can have their vote count). H.B. 294 would also move the absentee ballot request deadline up by seven days and eliminate in-person absentee voting on the Monday before Election Day.
Ohio Democrats have been expecting the legislation after a draft was leaked in mid-April. The chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, Liz Walters, said in a statement that “GOP politicians in Columbus are ignoring concerns from voting rights experts and plowing ahead with the most regressive measures we’ve seen yet. This bill has nothing to do with modernization, it only serves to take Ohio further back in the fight for voting rights in our state.”