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Cleveland.com: Rep. Marcia Fudge proposes coronavirus-inspired voting changes

Cleveland.com: Rep. Marcia Fudge proposes coronavirus-inspired voting changes

Sabrina Eaton | Cleveland.com

WASHINGTON, D. C. - Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge joined with several of her Democratic colleagues on Tuesday to introduce legislation to expand voting options during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The legislation that she introduced with colleagues including Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Niles-area Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan would require states to provide no-excuse mail-in absentee voting for the 2020 elections, maintain an early in-person voting period of at least 20 days for the 2020 elections and give states $2.5 billion to fund those programs.
 
It would also implement and promote curbside voting, improve access to voter registration and ensure voting access to individuals with disabilities, American Indian voters, Alaska Native voters and rural voters.
 
“While the health and safety of voters is a top priority during the current public health emergency, we must make sure the pandemic does not impede full, unfettered access to the ballot box,” said a statement from Fudge, who chairs a House election subcommittee that conducted hearings last year that concluded there were widespread voter suppression efforts around the country. “Voters must have safe, accessible options and sufficient time to cast their ballots without unnecessary confusion and potential voter disenchantment."
 
The bill is likely to get more traction in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, where its main sponsor is Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, than in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, where its main sponsor is California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris. Organizations supporting it include the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Common Cause.
 
In Ohio, coronavirus concerns shuttered polling places where voters were supposed to cast ballots in the state’s March 17 primary election. Ohio’s General Assembly extended balloting until April 28 and converted it to a vote-by-mail election.
 
A group of Ohio’s elected Democrats are seeking policy changes in the state that include expanded voter registration and streamlined ballot requests to prepare for a November election that could be upended by coronavirus. The Democrats said their proposed changes would boost the number of Ohioans who vote early and reduce Election Day lines, which would be useful whether or not further coronavirus outbreaks shutter polling places.
 
Typically, about one-third of voters in Ohio vote early, and the Democrats said they’d like to see the number get closer to one-half.
 
Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, backs some of their suggestions, like establishing an online application process for voters to obtain mail-in ballots, providing postage-paid envelopes for applications and mail-in ballots, and increasing money for local election offices. He disagrees with their proposal to allow third party groups to collect and deliver ballots, arguing it would create opportunities for cheating.