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New Ohio disabled absentee voting provision challenged

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J.D. Davidson

(The Center Square) – Advocacy groups challenged a new Ohio law that allows only an election official, specific relative or mail carrier to possess a ballot from a disabled voter.

The League of Women Voters and voter Jennifer Kucera filed a federal lawsuit challenging one of several new voting rules signed into law in the spring. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio represents both.

“As a person with a severe disability living by myself, I rely on my caregivers to do everything for me on a daily basis, including opening and helping me process my mail," Kucera said. "As transportation is difficult, I rely on voting by mail."

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© iStock - Rawf8

“The only way I can vote under existing laws is by having my 75-year-old mom, who has mobility issues of her own, drive all the way to my apartment and assist me," she continued. "Under the current laws, I am not allowed to complete my civic duty of voting if for any reason my mom is unable to help me vote, even though my caretakers would be available to help me.”

The groups say many voters with disabilities who cannot travel to polling places also can’t access their mailbox or a drop box. They also say many do not have one of the approved relatives, instead relying on a caregiver, friend or advocacy group to help with mail or to drop off a ballot.

The groups want the court to strike out the restrictions prohibiting non-family voting help.

“[House Bill] 458 is part of the nationwide trend to make voting harder — even impossible — for historically disenfranchised communities,” Megan Keenan, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said. “At best, all this law does is frighten and discourage Ohioans with disabilities from casting a ballot. At worst, it will imprison people with nothing but good intentions. We won't allow it.”

HB 458 was signed in January and created stricter voter ID requirements, eliminated early in-person voting the Monday before an election and shortened the deadline to apply and cast an absentee ballot.