Election advocates criticize law banning voter registration partnerships – Dayton Daily News

Some local election officials and voter advocacy groups want to change a new state law that they say prohibits valuable partnerships focused on voter registration, education, outreach and get-out-the-vote efforts.
“We’ve always enjoyed a positive relationship with our boards of election over the years, and it saddens me that we won’t be able to work together at the same level as we did in the past,” said Christine Corba, executive director of the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area.
Earlier this year, the state legislature’s budget bill included a provision forbidding public election officials from collaborating with nongovernment individuals or entities on election-related activities, according to a recent opinion interpreting the legislation from the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

Election officials also can’t receive money from nongovernment groups or give it to them.
“The legislation applies to both members of the board as well as the employees of the board of elections,” said Ward Barrentine, chief of the civil division with the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

Many community-based nonprofits hold voter registration and educational events, and board of elections staff often provided training and gave presentations to show how to do this work correctly, said Sarah Greathouse, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
“As the most reliable source of accurate information around voting and elections, it would be a shame to lose the board of elections’ voice at these events,” she said.
A statewide association representing election officials has shared its members’ concerns about the new prohibitions with legislators, Greathouse said, and she hopes the law will be changed.
“The wording (of the legislation) may not have had the intended impact — it may have been broader than intended,” Greathouse said.
Election officials are barred from working with businesses, nonprofits, private schools, churches and other groups.

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman told Cleveland.com that the provision seeks to prevent private groups with political agendas from directing resources toward Republican or Democratic areas.
The provision was created after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave millions of dollars in assistance to elections offices around the nation, including in Ohio.
Huffman, who did not respond to a request for comment, told Cleveland.com that legislators were not trying to prohibit regular voter outreach.
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, said, “We do not believe it was the intent of the General Assembly to criminalize the typical kinds of voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities that secretaries of state of both parties have historically done over the years.”
LaRose issued a news release highlighting some of his office’s collaborations to recruit poll workers, including a partnership with more than 100 barbershops, salons and schools to identify and sign up volunteers.

But local officials say the new statute clearly restricts partnership activities, regardless of lawmakers’ intent.
Corba, of the League of Women Voters, said it is disappointing since the board of elections helped train volunteers to properly register voters.
“We will respect the legislation and how it is written, but we really do hope it is able to be modified,” she said.
Training sessions and presentations helped ensure voter registration and absentee-ballot request forms were filled out correctly, said Jeff Rezabek, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
“The problem is if you don’t fill it out right, then we’re not getting the voter registered right then, and we’ve got to mail something out to that voter to get them registered properly,” he said.

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