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Ohio Senate approves changes to overseas and military voting despite Dems voicing objections

Ohio Senate meets for session on March 8, 2022.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Senate meets for session on March 8, 2022.

For the second time in two days, a measure to change the deadlines for overseas and military voting was up for consideration by the Ohio Senate.

Republican and Democratic senators debated the bill to shorten the required amount of time an overseas and military voter must have access to a primary ballot but extended when that ballot must be returned.

Democratic senators, who all voted for the same measures on Tuesday, voiced opposition this time around. They argued against the legislation saying it no longer has an emergency clause. Instead of an emergency clause, due to a battle over the bill in the Ohio House, the provisions now have an appropriation. Republican leaders say that additional funding will allow the bill to go into effect immediately.

Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) says she and other Democratic members had concerns with the change in procedure.

"It's allowing an appropriation to be attached to a controversial policy change, which gives an on constitutional loophole to avoid emergency clauses," says Maharath.

Despite voicing their opposition to the changes, Maharath and most of the other Democratic senators voted for the bill.

On Wednesday, House Republicans needed a two-thirds majority vote for the emergency clause meaning a few Democrats needed to vote for the changes. However, House Democrats unanimously voted against the emergency clause, with Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and others saying that Republicans have refused to adopt constitutional maps and the more responsible action should be to move the May primary.

Republican senators accused House Democrats of playing political games with military voters.

"In an attempt to do the bidding of the plaintiffs in the cases that are before the supreme court, I believe it's shameful and it's something that we should we should openly condemn," says Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon).

Ohio Republican Party chair Bob Paduchik and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican who's voted for all Republican-drawn maps as a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, shared similar statements.

Local boards of elections say the changes for overseas and military voting is needed because they are not ready to send out ballots.

The preparation of those ballots have been delayed due to the ongoing battle over state legislative and congressional district maps.

Three sets of map proposals approved by Republican lawmakers and Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission have been found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

A new state legislative district map proposal adopted on February 24 and a new congressional district map adopted on March 2 are now under review by the court.

Republican legislative leaders have said they will consider moving the May 3 primary if the court takes further action on any of the pending district maps.

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