Sep 28, 2022 - Politics

New study claims Ohio is one of the hardest states to vote in

Data: Schraufnagel et al., 2022, “Cost of Voting in the American States: 2022”; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Ohio finished 41st in the 2022 Cost of Voting Index, a nonpartisan report that ranks states by voting access.

Why it matters: Though these rankings don't necessarily correlate to voter turnout, they illustrate obstacles that may stand in voters' paths to the ballot box.

Details: 10 categories were taken into consideration, the two most important being ease of registration and early voting availability, the New York Times reports.

  • New Hampshire is the hardest state to vote in according to the index, but had the seventh-highest turnout rate in 2020, per analytics firm Statista.
  • Oregon is the easiest and was sixth-highest in turnout. Ohio's turnout ranked 27th.

Of note: The study says Ohio has zero days of early voting because we don't offer multiple polling locations, though in-person absentee voting is available 30 days prior to election day at your local county board of elections.

  • Or you can request an absentee ballot to vote by mail or drop your absentee ballot off at the designated dropbox at your local board of elections location.

Yes, but: Edward Foley, director of election law at Ohio State's Moritz College of Law, tells Axios that Ohio can be faulted for not having the easiest possible system, but it's not an impossible barrier.

  • "The study distinguishes between 'early voting' and 'in-person absentee voting,' but I think that’s a flawed methodology, at least with respect to Ohio," Foley told Axios. "Ohio’s in-person absentee voting is extremely robust, functions equivalently to early voting in many states … and provides a significantly more generous period of functional early voting."

What they're saying: "I think [Ohio's ranking is a] pretty accurate summation of our voting accessibility landscape," says Collin Marozzi, deputy policy director at ACLU Ohio. "We don't have an online absentee ballot request portal. Ohio [had same day voter registration] at one point, but got rid of it. There's much more that we could be doing to increase accessibility."

The other side: "You'd be hard-pressed to find an Ohioan who thinks it’s difficult to vote in this state because Ohio is among the nation’s leaders in accessibility," a spokesperson for Secretary of State Frank LaRose tells Axios. "This was a silly waste of energy untethered to anything meaningful."

The big picture: According to the New York Times, there have been 33 voter restriction laws passed in 19 states since 2020.

  • The Cost of Voting Index took these laws into consideration by adding new sections like absentee voting by mail and new identification requirements, limits on drop boxes and bans on unaffiliated groups handing out food or water to voters waiting at polling locations.

Zoom in: A 2021 state budget provision makes it illegal for nonprofits in Ohio to collaborate with the Board of Elections to boost voter turnout, registration or education.

  • A proposed bill in the Ohio Senate could require photo identification at the polls.
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