A Republican lawmaker introduced legislation last week into the Ohio Senate to move Ohio’s primary elections to a closed system and to allow voters to update their party affiliation at any time up to thirty days before a primary election.
Senate Bill (SB) 147, known as the Voter Registration Modernization Act, sponsored by State Senator Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester), attempts to allow voters to be more civically engaged by allowing them to declare their political party affiliation in real-time increasing data, accuracy, and integrity of the voter registration process.
Currently, a voter’s party affiliation is solely determined by the last primary ballot they used in even-numbered years. Under this new bill, voters can update their party affiliation at any time up to 30 days before a primary election on a voter registration form or update in person or online.
The legislation also requires candidates to affiliate with a political party to appear on that party’s primary ballot.
The bill also moves Ohio’s primary elections to a closed system, which means a voter must register with a political party to vote using that party’s ballot. This change does not affect the issue of voting for unaffiliated voters.
Currently, Ohio voters do not need to specify a party when registering. By requesting the ballot of the party primary they want at the time of voting, they can cast a ballot in either the Republican or Democratic primaries. Additionally, voters can switch between parties during various elections throughout the year.
According to Reynolds (pictured above), this bill came from discussions with her constituents, who have concerns about their inability to update their voter registration to reflect their values until a primary election in even-numbered years.
“Senate Bill 147 modernizes voter registrations in Ohio. This voter-friendly bill not only empowers voters to become more civically engaged, it also increases data accuracy and integrity of the voter registration process in real-time,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said that the ability to change parties easily will empower people to have freedom of choice and to be informed, voters.
According to State Representative Thomas Hall (R-Madison Township), he agrees with Reynolds that this is an important update to Ohio’s election process, and he has introduced a companion bill House Bill (HB) 208, into the House of Representatives.
“This is needed and this conversation is just beginning. I look forward to working with our colleagues in the House and Senate to see this idea come to fruition,” Hall said.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said that he is supportive of securing the Ohio primary election system.
“It’s time that we really modernize the way that we do voter registration in party primaries in the state of Ohio. It will improve Ohio’s election data, it will strengthen our elections by ensuring that party candidates are chosen by members of that party, it will also empower voters to determine what and when they are going to affiliate what party to affiliate with and when they are going to do so,” LaRose said.
A former Republican lawmaker has also been pushing for Ohio to strengthen the state’s current laws to secure the primary election system and stop party raiding.
Former Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci previously told The Ohio Star that he agrees it’s time to enforce and clarify the existing law in Ohio.
“It’s time to fix and clarify the existing law in Ohio. It’s time to either challenge the elector or change the law. We need party affiliation to be a conscious decision not a political decision,” Renacci told The Star.
Senate Bill 147 now awaits assignment to a Senate committee for review.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star, The Star News Network, The Arizona Sun Times, and The Tennessee Star. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]