As the Senate prepares to vote on HR1/S1, (commonly known as the “For the People”/ John Lewis Voting Rights Act) I recalled Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s recent KnoxPages “Opinion” piece about HR1/S1, with great dismay.
Why on earth would the Secretary of State-- an elected official who serves all Ohioans, regardless of political party, and who is charged with overseeing the elections that provide our Constitutionally enshrined right to vote -- oppose a Voting Rights Bill?
Let’s take a look at the fine print: HR1/S1. The “For The People” Act implements universal automatic voter registration, online voter registration, and same day voter registration. It modernizes our voting systems to make them even more secure. The bill blocks partisan gerrymandering, so that voters pick their politicians, and end the practice of politicians cherry-picking their voters. (Great news for Ohio, where congressional districts are crooked as a dog’s hind leg). This Federal legislation will require politicians to disclose donations and lobbyists they truck with, stopping Big Money and corporate lobbyists from calling the shots in our politics. This is why HR1/S1 is a much-needed step towards ending both corruption and the spread of election misinformation.
This leaves me scratching my head and wondering why Ohio’s Secretary of State claims that national standards for voting laws are “government overreach”. Mr. LaRose argues for “state’s rights” and hollers that HR1/S1 “will cause chaos.” These are the same unsuccessful, pearl-clutching arguments used against abolishing slavery, to maintain segregated schools, prevent integration of businesses and public housing, and to limit voting rights in Jim Crow states. Mr. LaRose is correct in citing the US Constitution’s verbiage leaving the administration of elections up to individual states “except in extreme circumstances.” What could be more extreme than LaRose's secret purging of 250,000 registered Ohioans from voter rolls? What could be more extreme than going to Federal Court four times at taxpayer expense to prevent county Boards of Election from using secure ballot dropboxes; then delaying the court ruling with frivolous appeals? And what could be more extreme than the lies we’ve seen circulating about “election fraud” -- unfounded lies, baseless and lacking evidence, rejected at all levels of our judicial system -- that led to the January 6 insurrection? HR1/S1 is the antidote to these issues: it will require state officials to exercise uniform voter rights standards, make our elections more secure, increase public confidence in our voting system, and encourage voter turnout.
Ohio already has some of the strictest voting laws in the country. ID is required to vote in person and to request an absentee ballot. Absentee and provisional ballots are verified in election precincts by poll workers from both political parties. Our elections are secure, and Mr. LaRose was right to congratulate himself on running a tight ship in 2020. If Mr. LaRose is truly interested in preventing chaos and maintaining election integrity, he would welcome the reforms outlined in HR1/S1 and support the “For the People” legislation. I encourage Mr. LaRose to reconsider his position on HR1/S1, and our Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support HR1/S1 when it comes up for a vote. After all, states that are already committed to upholding the democratic norms of our Constitution through safe and fair elections have nothing to fear from this bill. Unless of course, they fear democracy itself.
Jamie Lyn Smith-Fletcher
Mount Vernon, Ohio