Advocates of Automatic Voter Registration Make Second Attempt at Ballot Initiative

Opponents argue AVR threatens election security, creates administrative burden and encourages ill-informed voting.

A revised petition to allow Automatic Voter Registration on Ohio’s November ballot was submitted to state officials Monday.

The filing is the first part of a multi-step process that eventually will require the campaign to gather signatures from hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters so that the measure can be placed on the ballot.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, Ohioans would automatically be registered to vote upon applying for or renewing a driver’s license or other state-issued ID. Supporters of automatic registration say that it increases turnout, allows for updating and correcting voter rolls, and aligns with the goal of election security.

The first draft was rejected by the the Ohio Attorney General because the summary was longer than the language for the actual constitutional amendment. The office also said the summary included a paragraph of text that’s not included in the amendment.

Opponents of Automatic Voter Registration argue that it threatens election security, creates an administrative burden on election officials, and encourages ill-informed voting.

Members of “Secure and Fair Elections” and a collection of voting rights advocates delivered the revised petition. The coalition is led by the ACLU of Ohio
Twenty-one states currently have same-day voter registration. About a dozen more have some manner of automated voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Per the Attorney General’s request, the updated summary is what advocates will use when circulating the initiative for signatures.

The group will need to collect about 443,000 valid signatures by July to qualify for the November ballot.

The measure would reinstate and expand what previously was referred to as “Golden Week,” which state lawmakers eliminated in 2014. Another element of the proposed amendment is a required, statewide post-election audit.

Proof of residency is a key requirement in all states that offer same day registration.

In a traditional (pre-Election Day) registration, which is what Ohio currently uses, election officials have time to send a non-forwardable mailing to the prospective voter in order to verify the voter’s residence before processing the registration application.

Because that isn’t possible with AVR, the prospective voter must present proof of residency at the time of registration or soon after registering. A current driver’s license or ID card will suffice in all states. In some states, documents such as a paycheck or utility bill with an address is acceptable for proving residence.

A few states also permit an already-registered voter to vouch for the residency of an Election Day registrant.

Other elements of the proposal would put guarantees in writing that military service members and overseas citizens receive their ballots on time and that voters with disabilities have equal access to the polls.

The Attorney General’s office said in a statement that its role is to determine whether the summary is a “fair and truthful representation of the proposed the group acknowledges that rejected petition language is a common practice and it says they will be refiling.”