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Backers appeal 4-way split of voting proposal to high court

March 5, 2020 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Backers of an effort aimed at updating Ohio’s voting laws appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday, alleging the state ballot board misinterpreted the state’s single subject rule when it severed their proposal into four separate ballot issues.

Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections campaign manager Toni Webb said in a release that the group simultaneously delivered the four sets of petition language to Republican Attorney General Dave Yost’s office. Yost, who had previously signed off on the language when it was combined, has 10 days to act.

“We are moving forward with a two-pronged approach as we continue to work to ensure all Ohio’s elections are secure and that every eligible voter can cast a ballot,” she said.

At issue at the high court is the state Ballot Board’s decision Monday to break apart the package of reforms envisioned for the November ballot into four separate issues. The decision increases the effort, expense and time to get the proposals before voters.

The proposal calls for automatically registering Ohioans to vote when they conduct business at state Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices. It would also allow eligible Ohioans to register and cast a ballot on the same day during early voting and on Election Day. Further, it would guarantee military service members and overseas citizens receive their ballots in a timely fashion and that voters with disabilities get equal access to the ballot box. Finally, it included a post-election audit provision.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the state elections chief who chairs the board, said his analysis indicated the issues were all different. The panel upheld his recommendation 3-2.

State Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson, a Toledo Democrat who sits on the board, cast a no vote. She said at least three of the sections broken out by LaRose all dealt with an individual voter and should be kept together. She also said the Ohio Supreme Court precedent calls for the single subject law to be interpreted liberally.

Webb characterized the board’s decision as “unlawful” and said the campaign “had no choice” but to challenge it. She said the group is confident the law is on its side.

Maggie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for LaRose’s office, said he is confident in the board’s decision. She said he “believes it’s vitally important to allow voters to decide on very different issues that impact the law in several different ways.”