COLUMBUS, Ohio — A group of Democratic state lawmakers has proposed automatically registering all Ohio high-school students to vote once they reach voting age.
The bill, introduced in the Ohio House on Monday, also requires the state BMV to offer Ohioans the chance — without any additional paperwork — to register to vote or to update their registration when they visit, with an eye toward expanding it to other state agencies in the future. That’s similar to another bill introduced earlier this year in the state Senate with backing from Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican.
But the new bill expands the proposal to also cover eligible high-school students — those who will be 18 years old as of that year’s general election, according to its sponsor, state Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, a Cleveland Democrat.
Unlike the Senate bill, the new House bill has no Republican support, which doesn’t bode well for its chances in the Republican-controlled state legislature.
But Sweeney said she thinks Republicans may come around to the idea if they consider the issue. She said it will increase voter turnout, and not to the specific benefit of any one party.
She also said high schools are already designated voter-registration centers under federal law, capable of collecting and keeping the information needed to register someone to vote.
“I’ve been really pleasantly surprised with the conversations I’ve had with people who have been open to it,” she said.
LaRose’s office didn’t immediately have a comment on the new bill since it was just introduced. But in a statement, LaRose spokeswoman Maggie Sheehan said modernizing Ohio’s voter-registration system long has been a priority for LaRose, formerly a state senator.
“That’s why one of his first priorities as Secretary of State was the introduction of legislation that will make it happen; and with the bipartisan sponsorship from Sens. Vernon Sykes and Nathan Manning, we’re well on our way,” Sheehan said. “We’re certainly happy to welcome any legislator looking to join our effort to build a more innovative, more accurate voter registration system for Ohio voters.”
Sweeney said her new bill would help Ohio avoid the myriad issues it’s faced over the years with keeping its voter rolls current. Its current method of purging inactive voters has continued be prone to potential errors, something LaRose has acknowledged.
“To me, it’s good government,” she said.
She said as it’s currently written, her proposed bill would go into effect within one year of its passage.