Ohio Republicans promote mail-in, early voting after opposing it
A ballot drop box is seen outside the Athens County Board of Elections. Photo by Tyler Buchanan, OCJ.
Once a rallying point to exclaim about unsubstantiated fraud, Ohio Republicans are embracing mail-in and early voting ahead of the August 8 special election.
Ohioans are showing up to vote on Issue 1, the proposal to make it harder to amend the state Constitution.
“We’re encouraging everybody to get out and cast their ballot in the way that is easiest and most convenient for them,” said Nazek Hapasha with the League of Women Voters.
More than 155,000 Ohioans have already voted in the Aug. 8 special election. Hapasha is confident that people are showing up to vote no on the issue.
Nonpartisan law professor Atiba Ellis says she may be right since absentee voting has tended to support liberal candidates or issues.
“These off-Election Day forms of voting have tended to benefit the working class, have tended to benefit people of color,” Ellis said. “Given their flexibility, it has helped to involve groups that primarily trend for the Democratic Party.”
Because of this trend, some members of the Republican Party have been insistent on cutting early and mail-in voting, the legal expert added.
Former President Donald Trump has continuously made false claims for years about election fraud.
“Democrat officials never believed they could win this election honestly,” Trump said during a press conference in November of 2020. “That’s why they did the mail-in ballots, where there’s tremendous corruption and fraud going on.”
This myth trickled into Ohio.
Despite Sec. of State Frank LaRose assuring Ohio elections are safe, he and state lawmakers put forward more restrictive voting laws to prevent future fraud that had never happened on a wide scale basis.
Changes to absentees
Groups around the state are having difficulties with Ohio’s new election law.
Up until the beginning of 2023, there was no one specific form for requesting absentee ballots. A new law signed in January that went into effect this April made a requirement of one specific form.
The law also limits drop boxes to one location per county, which may only be open during business hours during early voting.
It also shortened the absentee ballot request window; ballots now must be requested a full week before Election Day. It also eliminated the last day of early voting, which is the Monday before Election Day.
The law also mandates that absentee ballots must be received by county boards of elections four days after Election Day, as opposed to ten days.
Now, some of the state lawmakers who previously questioned the integrity of the 2020 election because of mail-in voting are now encouraging absentee.
Back in 2020, 42 state GOP lawmakers sent a letter to Attorney General Dave Yost alleging “irregularities in the vote count, unexplained statistical anomalies, as well as grave allegations of irregularities and misconduct” in four swing states. This letter defended the Texas lawsuit against the “alleged unconstitutional rule changes and actions taken by these states leading up to the election.” These “unconstitutional rule changes” were all pandemic-related to make mail-in voting easier.
“I just cast my ballot for the August 8 special election early,” state Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) said in a video on his Facebook, with a note urging constituents to also vote early.
Conservative groups supporting Issue 1, like Vote Yes Ohio and Ohio Value Voters, are also urging their followers to vote early.
When reaching out to Republicans, some said Ohio’s new voter ID law makes them feel more comfortable, others say they learned Ohio didn’t have a problem with election fraud and the rest said they changed their minds.
There may be another reason.
“When there is a risk of losing, political parties change their tune all the time,” Ellis said.
Ellis acknowledged the irony of this situation — and Hapasha noted it is because people realize this could actually help them.
“People all over the country have been having this trend of having an about-face where when they’re speaking to their own supporters, they will say, ‘go earlier, cast your ballot by mail because it’s convenient,'” she said. “But their public statements have been ‘we only want people to vote on Election Day.'”
This is not to say that all Republicans who support absentee voting now have previously spoken out against it. Many Republicans have always supported early voting and have denied claims of election fraud — like state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls). He was the only GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in 2022 who said Joe Biden won the 2020 election and it wasn’t stolen from Trump.
When it comes to Issue 1, absentee ballot requests must be sent to boards of elections by August 1.
This 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.
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