ACLU Ohio, Dēmos, and Lawyers’ Committee File Lawsuit on behalf of Ohio League of Women Voters & Ohio APRI Challenging Ohio’s ‘New’ Primary
COLUMBUS– Today the ACLU of Ohio, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Dēmos filed a lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, and several Ohio voters, challenging H.B. 197, legislation that established a ‘new’ primary election, which is set to occur on April 28. The voting rights organizations contend that the timeline and process the legislature laid out for conducting a cumbersome vote-by-mail process in one month’s time, and the fact that the bill sets the voter registration deadline 70 days before the new primary date, will prevent thousands of eligible citizens from casting a ballot and unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote.
H.B. 197 is a broad coronavirus relief bill that was signed into law by Governor DeWine on Friday, March 27. Notably, before the legislation was passed, both Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials noted that April 28 did not give them enough time to conduct an election.
Plaintiffs ask the court to:
- order county board of elections to directly mail primary ballots to all registered voters who have not already cast a ballot in this election, return postage pre-paid;
- allow voters who do not receive a ballot in time to vote at the board of elections;
- select an election date that would allow elections officials enough time to effectively administer the election and inform voters about how the primary election will proceed; and
- set the registration date 30 days prior to the primary date, as required by federal law.
“Under the General Assembly’s undemocratic election scheme, thousands, if not millions, of Ohioans will not get to vote through no fault of their own,” said Jen Miller, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “Ohio’s inefficient absentee voting system wasn’t designed for this massive scale, especially under such an impossible timeframe. We call on the justice system to ensure that Ohio’s primary is constitutional and accessible.”