COLUMBUS, Ohio — House Bill 294 would alter the identification necessary to vote and affect the early voting process.

What You Need To Know

  • Rep. Bill Seitz is the sponsor on HB294, which would alter the time allotted to request an absentee ballot application

  • Two amendments have been made since the bill was first introduced 

  • Ohio Democrats have spoken out against the bill, calling it an anti-voter bill 

  • HB294 will have hearings Wednesday and Thursday

House Bill 294 would alter the identification necessary to vote and affect the early voting process. In its original form, House Bill 294 said a voter would need to request an online absentee ballot application at least ten days before the general election, but a written absentee ballot application only needed seven days.

In a hearing held on Dec. 1 the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bill Seitz, updated 294 so both application request processes would need to be done at least seven days before the election. After working with the Secretary Frank LaRose, and the League of Women Voters of Ohio, Representative Seitz amended the bill to still ensure every Ohioan would receive absentee voter requests forms in the mail.

“The better part of valor is to leave that there, because in any event, the General Assembly will control whether it happens or not and whether we have the money to fund it or not," said Seitz. “If online applications for absentee ballots become as ubiquitous as ordering online from Amazon, maybe we won't need to do this anymore, but we don't know that for sure. So we're just going to leave current law alone for now.”

Although amendments have been made to the bill, Ohio Democrats feel the bill is unnecessary. In a virtual event, they hosted one Cincinnati woman who spoke about how the absentee ballot process was already difficult to navigate. Nancy Foster tried for weeks to get an absentee ballot. She never had the chance to vote in the 2022 gubernatorial election.

“It didn't come in time for me to vote,” said Foster. “I wanted to vote. I couldn't get out to vote, and that was why I had asked for the absentee ballot.”

Ahead of House Bill 294’s hearing on Wednesday and Thursday, House Democratic Leader Allison Russo called for Ohioans to speak out against what she called “the anti-voter bill”.

“It’s a secure process, but, you know, the reality is the problems that people experience are in terms of having easy access to the ballot,” said Russo. “This bill and the changes in this bill add up to reducing that access, not making it better.”

The house government oversight committee will hold hearings on House Bill 294 on Wednesday and Thursday at the statehouse. It could be voted on before the end of the general assembly session on De. 31.