OCTOBER 2021 NEWSLETTER

Landslide Victory for Early Voting
The Ohio Poverty Law Center published its analysis of the 2020 General Election turnout in Ohio. The report, Landslide Victory for Early Voting: Ohio’s 2020 General Election, says that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio recorded an historic number of voters, largely spurred by early voting options.

Nearly 74 percent of registered Ohio voters turned out to vote in November 2020 resulting in the highest number of voters—nearly six million—in the state’s history. Much of that success can be attributed to expanded access to nontraditional voting methods, such as voting by mail, the use of drop boxes, and in-person early voting. In 2020, 36 percent of Ohio voters cast their ballots by mail or used secure drop boxes and nearly 23 percent voted in person before Election Day.

The report includes national census data that shows disparities in voter turnout related to income, race, age, and educational attainment were stark. State-level data shows that in Ohio, women voted at a higher rate than men, and voter turnout was higher among white Ohioans than Black or Hispanic voters.

Ohio continues to see disparities in turnout and registration by race, income, and education levels, which means those pulling the lever for our elected officials are not representative of the broader population of eligible voters.

The report analyzed Ohio voter turnout for the November 2020 General Election and found:
–Nearly 3.5 million Ohioans—or 58 percent of voters—voted before Election Day using mail-in ballots, secure drop boxes, and in-person voting.  
–Early voting methods were utilized across the state. In 83 of Ohio’s 88 counties, the majority of voters cast ballots before Election Day. 
–The eight counties with the highest rates of voter turnout had above the state average rates in the use of early voting options. 
–The 10 counties with the highest poverty rates had voter turnout rates below the state average. 

The last election was safe, secure, and led to historic voter turnout. Voters are comfortable with early voting options, and our lawmakers should be too. Based on the data in the report, OPLC will oppose efforts to reduce early voting options.
OPLC Testifies Against “Critical Race Theory” Bills
The Ohio House State and Local Government Committee held hearings in September on House Bill 322 and House Bill 327, which would prohibit the teaching of “divisive concepts.” HB 322 was amended to clarify that the provisions of the bill apply only to K-12 schools, the Ohio Department of Education, and the State School Board.

OPLC drafted and submitted opponent testimony to both bills and offered testimony in committee. More than 250 people submitted testimony for HB 322 and HB 327 and more than 70 people showed up to testify in person. The hearing had a hard stop of three hours so most of the people signed up ultimately did not get to testify. The Chair of the Committee, Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster), has indicated that both bills will receive future hearings although he has yet to announce when those hearings might be. Other groups that OPLC has worked with on the issue, including Athens Parents 4 Racial Equity, also gave opponent testimony. Video of the hearings is available here.

OPLC has been working with Honesty for Education, a coalition of opponents to both bills, to work on a strategy to stop both these bills from passing. We anticipate that hearings will continue throughout the fall and into early 2022.
Bipartisan Bill to Expunge Eviction Records Critical for Ohio Renters
An eviction on a tenant’s record can affect their ability to gain safe and affordable housing and can follow them for years. Senate Bill 158, sponsored by Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Senator Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) would allow for a court to expunge an individual’s eviction record after three years from the date of judgment. As many renters struggle to remain in their homes during the pandemic and access to emergency rental assistance is limited, it is important that this piece of necessary legislation is passed.