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Seven AGs Sign Amicus Brief, Challenging Ohio Voting Law

Attorneys general from Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., are challenging a 2022 Ohio voting law, alleging it creates unnecessary obstacles to casting a ballot.

Last week, the Attorneys General of half a dozen states and the District of Columbia filed an amicus brief in a case challenging Ohio voting restrictions. The federal court challenge has to do with ballot access for people with disabilities. State lawmakers placed strict limits on who can return an absentee ballot as part of a 2022 law that requires Ohioans present a photo I.D. to vote.

What’s It To You?

The attorneys general from Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. signed on to the amicus brief challenging Ohio’s law. The provisions make it a felony for anyone other than a postal worker or a specific list of relatives to return or possess another person’s absentee ballot.

“Every eligible voter who wants to vote should be able to do so — full stop,” D.C.’s Attorney General Brian Schwalb wrote in a press release.

“Ohio’s law violates this fundamental democratic principle by creating unnecessary obstacles that will make it harder for millions of people to cast a ballot — and disproportionately harms voters with disabilities,” he added. “This law does nothing to improve election security and instead is simply un-democratic and un-American.”

Coming from the District, which lacks full representation in Congress, laws limiting voter access hit particularly close to home.

The brief is quick to acknowledge Ohio isn’t alone in restricting third party ballot assistance. A handful don’t allow any outside help at all, and most states, like Ohio, place limits on who can return a person’s ballot. But the AGs argue Ohio is an outlier because it doesn’t provide flexibility for people who face legitimate barriers in accessing the ballot box.

The lawsuit challenging Ohio’s restrictions includes a plaintiff named Jennifer Kucera, who’s living with muscular dystrophy. She relies on in-home caregivers for many aspects of her daily life, including her mail. But under Ohio’s strict law, those same caregivers cannot assist her with her ballot. Kucera’s only relation included on Ohio’s list is her mother, who is elderly and lives half an hour away.

The Ohio Capital Journal reached out to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office for comment but did not get a response. In the past, his team has declined to weigh in, citing a policy of not commenting on active litigation.

How the States Stack Up

There are three federal laws meant to protect the voting rights of disabled individuals. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act shouldn’t be excluded from participation because of their disability. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 holds that people who need assistance may choose whoever they want to assist them, so long as that person isn’t a representative of their union or employer.

Taken together, those measures represent a substantial effort to safeguard ballot access. Still, the Attorneys General note states have significant authority over how exactly they manage elections.

“(We) recognize that states have considerable discretion to decide how best to regulate ballot collection,” they wrote in the court brief. “But the Ohio law is out of step with most state laws, and out of line with federal law.”

Ohio’s law allows the following relations to return an absentee ballot:

  • A spouse
  • A parent including an adoptive parent or stepparent
  • A parent-in-law
  • A grandparent
  • A sibling, including a half sibling
  • A child, including an adopted child or stepchild
  • An aunt or uncle
  • A niece or nephew

In all, eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, make no explicit restriction on who can return a ballot. Four states — Alabama, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin — require the voter him or herself to return their ballot and make no exception for people with disabilities.

But, like Ohio, the vast majority fall somewhere in between, allowing someone else to help a voter, but placing limits on who can provide that assistance. Many allow voters to select almost anyone to handle their ballot with various requirements on how they authorize of designate that individual. Similarly, seven restrict how many peoples’ ballots a person can assist with.


The problem, the attorneys general contend, is not so much those restrictions as the lack of exceptions for people with disabilities.

“By substantially cabining who can help a voter exercise the franchise,” they write, “without providing notable carveouts for disabled voters, Ohio’s law could disenfranchise many of its most vulnerable residents.”

Their brief points to states like Texas, Iowa and Connecticut that allow for broader access for disabled voters despite an otherwise restrictive list of eligible assistants. Texas and Iowa reiterate the Voting Rights Act provision allowing anyone to assist so long as they aren’t an agent of the voter’s employer or union. Iowa also caps the number of ballots a delivery agent can handle at two. Connecticut allows a disabled voter to select among their caretakers, a designated family member, a police officer or a local elections official.

In three other states, a disabled voter can have elections officials come to them. Ohio law carries a similar provision, but only for those who are completely unable to travel.

They note in addition to Ohio, five states restrict the list of eligible assistants to family members, but even there most provide greater flexibility. In Massachusetts, for instance, any family member can return a ballot in person, and in New Hampshire and Oklahoma blind and disabled voters living nursing homes have more options.

“Only two — Missouri and North Carolina — have similar limits as Ohio,” the brief notes, “with agents constrained to a set of family members and without any additional flexibility for voters with disabilities.”

But even in those states, the list of eligible relations includes grandchildren, while Ohio’s list does not.

This article was first published by the Ohio Capital Journal. Read the original article.
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