CLEVELAND — The Campaign Legal Center, All Voting is Local, Ohio Voice, and Common Cause today urged Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to issue an opinion for County Boards of Elections on what election-related activity is permitted or restricted under a newly implemented law that appears to forbid election officials from collaborating with advocates.
The budget bill passed by the Ohio Legislature this summer includes a provision that calls for a potentially sweeping prohibition on collaboration between election officials and community groups, a move that could limit voter registration and other efforts to help voters make their voices heard. However, public comments by the Secretary of State’s office and state legislators from both parties have indicated it was not the legislature’s intent to ban such programming, ultimately creating confusion about what is or isn’t restricted.
“The ongoing confusion among local election officials, the uneven interpretation of this new law by county prosecuting attorneys, and the lack of clarity in the law itself warrants an unambiguous opinion from your office,” the groups wrote in the letter.
“We believe that the current law, under any interpretation, represents poor public policy,” said Kayla Griffin, Ohio State Director for All Voting is Local. “It should be amended to remove the ban on collaboration or repealed entirely to avoid any situations that could hinder voter education and the work of elections officials.”
“What is clear is that this law has created confusion for local election officials who are simply trying to do their jobs and conduct activities that are critical to successful and inclusive democratic practices in Ohio,” said Danielle Lang, Senior Director for Voting Rights at Campaign Legal Center. “The legislature, in a bipartisan fashion, must amend or repeal this ban and allow these activities to continue. For the sake of all Ohio voters.”
Background: On its face, Revised Code § 3501.054 purports to bar any public official responsible for administering or conducting an election from collaborating with any nongovernmental entity on activities related to voter registration, education, poll worker recruitment, or similar election-related activities.
The full letter can be found HERE.