Rep. Bill Seitz

Ohio House of Representative Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) called those who use ballot drop boxes "COVID cowards"

Ohio is a “Red State Rising.” A Republican super majority has run the state government for over a decade and Trump won Ohio, defeating Biden by a greater margin than Clinton, which makes any progressive or Democrat shake their head in disbelief.

Have years of GOP-led “legalized” voter suppressionmarginalized Ohio Democrat lawmakers to the point there’s no foreseeable future where they have leadership? The Free Press’ Bob Fitrakis has been reporting on GOP voter suppression for two decades. Ohio’s GOP passed these laws to ostensibly combat the boogey-men committing (so-called) voter fraud, which has proven to be myth.

As other GOP-led states seek to rewrite election law, here comes Ohio House Bill 294. Ohio’s “Election Security and Modernization Act.” Does the word “Security” suggest some unnamed power tried to steal Trump’s win in Ohio? And surprise, surprise, several co-sponsors are hardcore Trumpers, such as freshman state Rep. Mike Loychik who introduced a bill to name a state park after the former president.

Yet the bill’s main sponsor – Ohio House Majority Leader Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) – told Statehouse Democrats that Ohio conducted an “outstanding election,” and the state has “an exceptional voting system.” Outnumbered Ohio Democrats are calling it “a voter suppression bill” that will “sow confusion.”

Rep. Seitz is a loudmouth, say some. A polarizing bully who mocks Democrats during floor speeches, and in 2018 made light of sexual harassment claims against a former Ohio Senator.

Indeed, when Ohio Democrats tried to question Seitz on the bill during a recent committee hearing he yelled at Democratic House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes: “You can’t interrupt me, madam!”

Ohio House Bill 294 in particular has several measures which have riled up state voting rights advocates:

·      Limit the number of ballot drop boxes and only at a county’s board of elections ten days before the election, which is the current Secretary of State directive. (Before the 2020 election Ohio Democrats were unsuccessful in vying for off-site boxes. Ohio Democrats have introduced House Bill 209 which would establish offsite boxes, into rural areas, for example.)

·      Shorten mail ballot access by a week.

·      A three-tiered ID requirement for vote-by-mail voters.

Seitz has publicly said there should be no drop boxes, period, even though drop boxes played a huge part last fall in allowing the elderly and others concerned about the virus to vote, and those worried the US Postal Service may not get their ballot in on time. He even called voters who put their ballots in drop boxes “COVID cowards.”

Seitz argues Antifa and “Q Anon” could put cherry bombs in them. Franklin County Board of Elections has used drop boxes for years without incident and monitors its onsite drop boxes 24/7.

“They’re kind of talking out both sides of their mouth,” said Matt Keyes, spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party. “On one hand, the 2020 election was safe and secure, and one of the best run elections. But we also know one of the reasons that the 2020 election was so secure was because of the availability of things like drop boxes and absentee ballots. And those are two ways that are most popular to vote in our state and those are two things under attack in this proposed legislation.”

A huge number of Ohioans requested absentee ballots in 2020, which of course could either be mailed in or dropped in boxes. There were over 3.2 million absentee ballots compared to 1.6 million in 2016, ranking Ohio third highest in the nation.

Absentee ballots may or may not have propelled Biden to victory. The evidence is unclear. But what is clear is Ohio Democrats “dominated” absentee ballot requests that were either mailed in or dropped off in drop boxes, this according to the Dispatch.

Is Rep. Seitz being pressured by some national GOP influence to push this legislation?

“We are not privy who is pressuring (Seitz) or not. I do think it’s interesting that we are seeing similar legislation being introduced in Florida, Georgia, Texas, all around the same time. It is fishy,” said Keyes.

Ohio is arguably not a Red State, he says.

“It’s a ‘rigged state.’ One of the reasons it seems to be a Red State is because the rules are rigged. We have these gerrymandered districts and we continue to see these vote bills that chip away at Ohioans voting rights,” Keyes said.

In Cincinnati, the Hamilton County Democratic Party (HCDP) has turned the county more and more blue, as goes Franklin County. HCDP Interim Executive Director Ellen Rakowski says House Bill 294 is personal for Cincinnati’s Rep. Seitz because he and his “staunch Republican” constituents are feeling more and more threatened.

“He wants to cement the fact that we will have one ballot drop box in the whole county, and currently that is in Norwood, which is about a 25-minute drive from his district,” said Rakowski. “I don’t know why he would want his constituents having to trek the county just to drop off their ballot safely if they didn’t want to do it through the mail. It’s clearly a reaction to what he’s seeing here [Hamilton County becoming more blue].”

Ohio House Democrats held a statewide listening tour to hear from Ohio voters about House Bill 294. The tour concluded in early June.