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Voting rights organizations unite for accessible Ohio elections

The 2024 presidential election is quickly approaching, leaving many wondering who will be the next president of the U.S.

As anticipation builds, numerous Ohio-based organizations have worked hard to remove barriers to the polls, ensuring equal access to all eligible voters.

All Voting is Local, Common Cause Ohio, The League of Women Voters Ohio The Fair Elections Center are all organizations that work to protect voters’ rights. 

Together, these groups, along with others, make up The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, or OVRC, and partners. OVRC is a non-partisan group “of voter advocates dedicated to ensuring that our elections are modern, secure and accessible to all Ohioans.”

Greer Aeschbury is a senior campaign manager for All Voting is Local Ohio. She said the group works to protect rights through data, research and community outreach.

“We're an organization that's dedicated to removing barriers to the polls,” Aeschbury said.

Aeschbury explained part of All Voting is Local Ohio’s efforts include keeping voters up to date on legislation and polling protocols. An example of legislative change regarding voter rights was Ohio House Bill 458. 

Jan. 6, 2023, Governor Mike DeWine signed HB 458 into law. The law made numerous changes to Ohio voting regulations. Now, voters must use an unexpired photo ID; the absentee ballot request window is shortened to a full week before the election; and the last day of early voting is eliminated, among numerous other amendments.

Aeschbury said All Voting is Local Ohio has taken part in efforts to inform Ohio voters about these changes before the 2024 presidential election. The goal is to ensure everyone has the opportunity to cast a ballot. 

“Unfortunately, we've seen efforts by the Ohio legislature to narrow who gets to participate, making it harder and harder to participate in our democracy,” Aeschbury said. “So the things we're doing that open (democracy) up, I think are essential to the strength of our government in Ohio.”

Kelly Defour is the voting and elections manager at Common Cause Ohio. Defour explained she has also educated voters about the changes made through HB 458. 

“There are specific requirements now that weren't in place before,” Defour said. “We want to make sure voters are prepared when they show up to vote.”

Even with efforts to educate voters, Defour acknowledges there still may be some confusion regarding voting laws during the 2024 election. To combat any misunderstandings or election-related concerns, Common Cause has created the Election Protection Hotline.

“We think voting should be easy, so the election protection hotline is available for voters when it's not,” Defour said.

During election time, the hotline 866-OUR-VOTE is open to voters who experience difficulties at the polls or have election-related questions. The hotline is available in different languages, improving access for non-English speakers.                   

Although education regarding voting laws is important, Nazek Hapasha, policy affairs manager for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said educating voters on ballot issues is also essential in ensuring voter access.  

“The media does a really good job of highlighting the presidential election and people are already very aware of that,” Hapasha said. “It's all the other stuff that they're not aware of which we try to bring attention to.”    

To help educate voters on ballot issues, the League of Women Voters of Ohio works to create an election-specific voter guide. The guide contains non-partisan information about candidates, issues, election dates and deadlines.

Hapasha said the League of Women Voters of Ohio also works to mobilize and register voters ahead of elections. 

“Our democracy is not going to be effective unless it actually represents everyone in it,” Hapasha said. “If that is going to be the case, different people have different capabilities and there has to be equity in voting for different parts of our population.”

Alexis Crosby, the Ohio State Coordinator for the campus vote project, said the Fair Election Center works to recruit poll workers and advocate for marginalized groups within Ohio. 

A specific movement within the Fair Election Center is the Campus Vote Project, a program dedicated to student voters.

“We work directly with campuses to help them navigate our very complicated democratic system, with the goal to make sure that we have full participation in our democracy,” Crosby said.

A piece of the Campus Vote Project is the State Student Voting Guides, a resource that outlines state-specific laws for student voters. 

Crosby explained the upcoming 2024 presidential election is an opportunity to get voters talking and, ultimately, encourage regular, civic engagement. 

As advocates like Crosby, Hapasha, Aeschbury and Defour prepare for the upcoming election, they encourage Ohio voters to educate themselves if possible, to help prepare for the polls. As Crosby explains, public opinion and representation is the foundation of democracy.

“We don't know what the community wants if the community doesn't show up,” Crosby said. “That's how you do community. That's how you do democracy – if everyone shows up and brings their opinion and their voice.” 


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