Issue 2: Ohio voters to decide whether non-citizens can vote in local elections
A voter at the ballot maker machine during the Ohio primary election, May 3, 2022, at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, Dublin, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)
The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
Issue 2 on Ohio’s 2022 general election ballot will allow voters to determine if non-citizens can vote in hyper-local elections.
The ballot amendment would prohibit local governments from allowing non-citizens, or non-electors, to vote. It would require that only a U.S. citizen, who is at least 18 years of age and who has been a legal resident and registered voter for at least 30 days, can vote at any state or local election.
“It’s important to know that, you know, only people that are actually citizens are voting,” said Rocky River Republican Chuck Bartsche, who refers to himself as a conservative organizer.
He is supporting the amendment, saying it reassures voters that the elections are secure, while also encouraging immigrants to work towards citizenship.
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Pepper Pike Democrat Rita Rome, who helps register people to vote, said this amendment just exists for political points — since the votes would only affect the village or town. Laws already ban non-citizens from voting in federal, state, and county elections.
“Allow local areas, local cities and towns to allow their residents to weigh in on what affects their lives as taxpayers,” Rome said.
So where can non-citizens actually vote? Nowhere in Ohio right now.
This is a preemptive amendment that followed a ballot issue from Yellow Springs, a village outside Dayton with about 3,800 people. They voted in 2019 to allow their non-citizen residents to vote in local elections only.
In a phone call with OCJ/WEWS, Yellow Springs Mayor Pam Conine said her two-square-mile town wants to allow their about 30 non-citizen taxpayers to vote for positions like mayor and council.
“It adds value to our village, literally, in the sense that it’s helping to improve our village values for inclusion, diversity, all people’s opinions being of importance,” Conine said. “This only affects people within the boundaries of Yellow Springs.”
Nearly 60% of voters agreed. But in 2020, Secretary of State Frank LaRose stopped Greene County from allowing this, citing only Americans should be allowed to vote. Thus, the amendment was crafted by state Republicans. While going through the House, the measure was sponsored by House Majority Leader Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) and state Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville).
“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” the mayor said. “I really don’t think it’s an issue, and I think it’s an overreaction.”
Some members of the GOP said this is a way to prevent a future secretary of state from allowing non-citizens to vote. Bartsche added that the ballot amendment said this can prevent undocumented people from cheating the system — Conine said that isn’t even happening.
“I know how this can, again, bring nightmare scenarios to people of certain political persuasions who fear that this is going to open the floodgates of undocumented people voting and throwing elections hither and yonder,” the mayor said. “Our opinion was, probably, if you’re undocumented, you’re not going to be registering to vote in the first place and bringing attention to yourself.”
Local control is being challenged by many GOP lawmakers, she added.
“If people living in other municipalities don’t want this privilege for their non-citizens, then by all means, they don’t have to do it,” she said.
“If I live in a town and I’ve been in this country three years and I’m applying for citizenship and I want to vote for my school board — I’m paying taxes, I should be allowed to do it,” the Democrat added.
Ohio has home rule, which means municipalities get to have their own laws, as long as they don’t supersede state law.
“There’s a lot of people in this country that are documented and they need to go forward with the process, so there is a path to citizenship,” he said.
By voting yes on Issue 2, Bartsche says you will support closing a loophole and election integrity.
By voting no, Rome says you will be supporting taxpayers having a say in their local community and opposing government overreach.
Other opposers of the bill would are worried this also could reduce the number of young people able to vote. Seventeen-year-olds may not be able to pre-register to vote or vote once they become a legal adult. They would need to be 18 for at least 30 days before the election. All voters are 18, but registering to vote can currently be done when the Ohioan is 17 but turns 18 before or on election day.
Want to learn what district you’re in and which candidates you can vote for? OCJ/WEWS is here to help. We created a 2022 midterm elections guide, which is updated daily based on the changing candidacies.
Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.
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