HB 266 – Prohibiting Unsolicited Election Mailings (2103-2014)
Link to Bill:http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=128_HB_266
HB 266 allows, but does not require, the Secretary of State to continue to mail voter registration forms and applications for absentee ballots unsolicited, as long as return postage is not included and these forms are mailed statewide. However, it prohibits county boards of elections (BOEs) from sending any unsolicited ballots, ballot applications, and/or voter registration forms.
Primary Sponsors:Rep. Becker (R)
Secondary Sponsors:Rep. Lynch (R), Rep. Maag (R)
Committee:Policy and Legislative Oversight (H)
LSC Legislation Status:http://lsc.state.oh.us/coderev/hou130.nsf/House+Bill+Number/0266?OpenDocument
Jurisdiction/Legislation Level:Local, State
Our take on this bill:
HB 266 changes the popular absentee voting system to make receiving absentee ballots more difficult. Since 2006, several counties have sent voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications, which has increased the use of early voting and cut long lines on Election Day. In order to make sure all counties provide equal access to absentee ballots, this bill allows only the Secretary of State – and no longer the counties – to send unsolicited absentee ballots to all Ohio voters.
The ACLU of Ohio supports equal access to the polls statewide. However, this legislation falls short because it does not require the Secretary of State to send out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. This means that this valuable service to voters will be at the mercy of the whims of individual Secretaries of State. Many voters who have faithfully used vote by mail may be confused as to why they did not receive their absentee ballot application, and Ohio could see a return to long lines on Election Day. State leaders should be moving to a system where vote by mail is encouraged in every election, and voters are given numerous opportunities to cast their ballot.
HB 266 is one of several election bills being considered and passed by the Ohio General Assembly at a rapid pace. Most of them include provisions that make the election process more difficult, more confusing and less accessible. The ACLU of Ohio opposes HB 266 and similar bills and will fight to ensure a fair and robust democracy.