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Two controversial Ohio bills on oil and gas drilling and election laws both signed

A line of early voters stands by a ballot drop box at the Franklin County Board of Elections on October 20, 2020.
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A line of early voters stands by a ballot drop box at the Franklin County Board of Elections on October 20, 2020.

The state is facing a lawsuit over a bill signed on Friday that makes big changes in Ohio’s voting laws. Gov. Mike Dewine signed that and another bill left over from the lame duck legislative session, and both Republican-backed bills are controversial.

Late on Friday, as his inaugural weekend was getting started, DeWine signed House Bill 507, which could speed up the process of permitting oil and gas drilling on state lands. DeWine had hinted in a year end interview with the Statehouse News Bureau that he would sign it.

The Ohio Environmental Council's Action Fund said in a statement that they are "deeply disappointed" he didn't veto the bill, which they called unconstitutional. A statement from the group continued: "This bill is an egregious assault on executive authority, the public’s interest and our state parks and public lands. The bill also furthers fossil fuel misinformation campaigns designed to brand natural gas as ‘green energy,’ a nationwide effort to delay climate action and the transition to a truly clean energy future.”

The other bill deals with election laws. House Bill 458:

  • requires voters to show photo ID
  • allows just one ballot drop box per county
  • permits curbside voting only for people with disabilities
  • requires requests for early ballots to be made no later than seven days before Election Day, instead of three days before
  • requires mailed-in ballots, including military and overseas ballots, to arrive no later than four days after Election Day, down from ten days
  • gives provisional voters four days to provide missing information, down from seven days
  • eliminates special elections in August except in cases of fiscal emergency

Almost immediately, a lawsuit was filed by a group representing unions and unhoused Ohioans, from Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, who sued and won cases over Ohio’s redistricting process and helped fight lawsuits filed and lost by former President Trump after he lost the 2020 election.

Democrats, civil rights organizations and veterans groups also condemned the signing of the bill. House Minority Leader Allison Russo said in a statement: “One of Ohioans most sacred rights has now carelessly been trampled on and the will of the voters has been brushed aside." And former Rep. Connie Pillich, who now heads the Ohio Democratic Party’s Veterans & Military Community Caucus, wrote in a statement: “I am shocked that Gov. DeWine – or any member of the Ohio legislature – would actively disenfranchise our men and women in uniform. But that is precisely what this bill has done.”

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.
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