From The Gateway News
By Marc Kovac
A group has submitted initial petition language to the attorney general’s office for a proposed constitutional amendment requiring automatic voter registration when Ohioans apply for or renew their driver’s licenses.
The Ohio Motor Voter Automatic Registration amendment would register new voters and update existing ones, unless residents opt out in writing.
A summary of the amendment notes that bureaus of motor vehicles already are required to ask whether patrons want to register to vote or change their voter status. The amendment would make the registrations mandatory.
Residents from Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati and Akron are listed as the petitioners, with a Washington, D.C., law firm submitting the paperwork and 2,895 petition signatures for Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office for review.
DeWine’s office must give it’s OK, and the paperwork would have to be reviewed by the state Ballot Board before backers could begin collecting the 300,000-plus signatures required to place the amendment before voters.
“With 2.85 million Ohio citizens eligible but not registered to vote, we’re exploring a way to modernize elections while making them fairer and increasing participation,” Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for iVote, the group behind the amendment, said in a released statement. “Automatic voter registration would accomplish these goals in the simplest way possible - through the motor voter process the state already runs. Which is why 65 percent of Ohioans surveyed, including the majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, support implementing automatic voter registration in the Buckeye State.”
The amendment is similar to legislation proposed by state Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), who supports automatic voter registration through BMVs. Her HB 181, introduced last last year, has not yet had a hearing.
Clyde said she has not yet read the proposed constitutional amendment.
“If it accomplishes automatic voter registration, I think that is potentially a win for Ohio,” she said, adding, “We’re seeing online voter registration struggle to get through this general assembly… We’re just moving too slow.”
Clyde said several states have adopted comparable law changes allowing voter registrations as part of driver’s license applications and renewals.
“The citizens, I think, want reform,” she said. “This is one way to achieve it. I certainly look forward to looking at the proposal and hopefully supporting it, if it is moving forward successfully.”