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Is the "For the People Act" for Ohio?

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Supporters of a federal election reform bill say it's necessary to counteract a flood of state-level legislation restricting voting rights. (Adobe Stock)
Supporters of a federal election reform bill say it's necessary to counteract a flood of state-level legislation restricting voting rights. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman - Producer, Contact
May 11, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A sweeping bill aimed at improving election fairness in states across the country is making its way through Congress, but Ohio's chief elections official is saying, 'No, thanks.'

A Senate panel will mark up its version of the For the People Act today, after the bill passed the House in March.

It reforms federal elections by expanding voter registration and absentee voting, limiting voter-roll purges and increasing funding for election security.

Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State, argued the measure creates federal mandates for problems that don't exist.

"That's really about somebody in D.C. thinking they know better than we do," LaRose asserted. "And in Ohio, we came off of last year the most successful election we've ever had, and that's not hyperbole. For us to have that kind of success and then be told by Washington, 'No, we know better how to run your elections,' is insulting and incorrect."

LaRose is one of 16 secretaries of state voicing opposition to the bill.

Voting-rights groups say the For the People Act will modernize elections and address barriers to voting.

Jen Miller, executive director for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, thinks the bill would restore faith in democracy by reforming congressional campaign financing and establishing new ethics standards for officeholders.

She contended the current patchwork of election laws creates confusion.

"If the way that voters can cast ballots, the way that voters can register, the way that candidates can behave in terms of campaign finance in each state is more uniform, I think we can feel better about federal election results and integrity," Miller stated.

But LaRose worried new federal standards could impact voter turnout.

"The most important thing that we as elections officials can do is to maintain the trust and the confidence that voters have in their system of elections," LaRose emphasized. "Where people lose trust, they're less likely to want to participate in that process."

At the local level, there are also some concerns the changes would be expensive and difficult to implement. Senate Democrats offered an amendment to extend some deadlines for those changes.

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