Columbus, OH — Today, the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, a coalition that includes Common Cause Ohio, ACLU Ohio, All Voting Is Local, and the League of Women Voters of Ohio, sent a letter to Governor Mike DeWine urging him to veto three provisions that undermine the state’s ability to hold free and fair elections, embedded within HB 110, the state operating budget bill. The three provisions, SOSCD15, AGOCD37, and SENCD2 restrict funding for election administration and voter education efforts, threaten the right to challenge unconstitutional state laws, and hurt this year’s fair redistricting process.
“The state operating budget is not a vehicle for lawmakers to sneak in anti-democratic provisions that threaten the constitutionally-protected right to free and fair elections,” said Catherine Turcer, Executive Director of Common Cause Ohio. “We urge Governor DeWine to commit to transparent mapmaking and line-item veto the changes in the operating budget about redistricting lawsuits because the amendment has not been properly scrutinized by experts or the public.”
SOSCD15 bans public-private partnerships to fund critical programs that strengthen election security and administration. It also prohibits elected officials from collaborating on civic and voter education strategies, commonly known as “get out the vote” efforts.
In 2020, the people of Ohio benefited from investments to upgrade equipment, make polling locations accessible to disabled voters, and collaborations that led to increased civic engagement so every eligible voter could be heard on Election Day, all of which would be illegal without the Governor’s veto.
The Senate-passed version of HB 110 included problematic language pertaining to the use of private donations, gifts, and grants for election administration and voter education. Unfortunately, the conference committee report not only included the troubling Senate-passed language but went even further to prohibit nongovernmental entities from “collaborating” with public officials for any election related activities.
The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition does significant programming with local Boards of Election and the Secretary of State’s office to promote civic engagement, voter education, and ballot access — all prohibited activities under the current version of HB 110. Its member organizations regularly collaborate with election administrators, both at the local and state level. This unvetted language appears to prohibit any and all collaborations between nongovernmental entities and could severely limit Ohio voter’s ability to cast an informed ballot.
AGOCD37 and SENCD2 threaten the separation of powers by placing restrictions on challenges to state laws, including any unfair redistricting laws that may take place this year. This language poses significant separation of powers concerns by prohibiting the Attorney General from entering settlements, agreements, or consent decrees during a lawsuit challenging the validity of state law. This prohibition is an overreach by the legislature into the executive’s authority as a co-equal branch of government responsible for enforcing the laws the General Assembly creates. Adding unvetted, last-minute amendments impacting redistricting litigation to the budget violates the clear mandate for transparency. To alter the process does not live up to the letter or spirit of the redistricting reforms — now a part of the Ohio Constitution — that Ohio voters overwhelmingly supported in 2015 and 2018.