Bill seeking to prohibit ‘election intimidation’ introduced in Ohio House

By: - November 2, 2020 12:40 am

Voters in line. Photo by John McCosh, Georgia Recorder/States Newsroom.

A bill regarding election protections was introduced last week by a Democratic Ohio House member.

Though the House won’t come back into session to consider the bill until after the general election, state Rep. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, filed the bill that would bar any “reckless attempts” to force a voter to reveal who they voted for, make false statements, “interfere with an elector in the voting booth,” or destroy or remove a ballot from a polling place, according to the language of the bill.

The bill also includes a clause making it unlawful to “purposely intimidate, threaten, coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce a person for the purpose of interfering with that person’s right to vote in an election,” the bill states.

Miller said the motivation behind the bill tied in with reports of “unauthorized groups and individuals being called to ‘monitor’ polling locations. This claim was also connected to President Donald Trump, who advised his supporters to “watch very carefully” at the polls.

“I understand politicking and engaging in political spin, but when you intentionally act to keep someone from voting, you’ve crossed the line,” Miller said in a statement. “Voting is a right – plain and simple.”

Violation of the potential law would be a fourth-degree felony.

Observing the polls isn’t unlawful in all aspects. In all states including Ohio, laws are in place to guard “poll watchers,” but are there to make sure the polling place is treating all voters fairly and the voting process is being done according to the law.

The Ohio Revised Code says a poll observer must be a registered voter in the precinct, but not a candidate. Observers can be appointed by a political party, but only one person per precinct is allowed and they can’t be armed. Police officers, state troopers, or other “person in uniform” can’t be poll observers in the state.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.