State Rep. Abrams Proposes Plan For Future Elections Held During Health Crisis

Her proposal also focuses on specific uses for CARES Act funding.

Cindy Abrams. File photo.

(Columbus, Oh.) – A local State Representative has come up with a clear, transparent plan for conducting elections during a public health emergency.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, State Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) introduced House Bill 680 to lawmakers last week.

Under the proposal, the governor and director of the Ohio Department of Health may, in the case of a public health emergency and not later than 60 days before an election, jointly recommend to the Ohio General Assembly that the failsafe plan be implemented for the upcoming election.

Lawmakers would then have three days to approve the failsafe. If not, the election would be conducted under existing law with in-person and absentee voting.

The failsafe plan would have the election be conducted by mail, with all polling places closed. The Ohio Secretary of State would mail a postcard to each registered voter notifying them of the procedures to apply for and return absentee ballots, in addition to applicable deadlines.

“It is vital that decisions about how Ohio conducts elections be made thoughtfully and deliberately, not in the heat of the moment in the midst of a crisis,” said Abrams.

Abrams added that her proposal prohibits state and local health departments from issuing any orders or rules that would affect the conduct of an election.

Additionally, House Bill 680 focuses on specific uses for CARES Act funding:

- To pay for all costs associated with the completion of the March 17 primary;
- To provide a one-time incentive bonus payment to precinct election officials and temporary employees of the boards of elections for the November 3 general election;
- To provide personal protective equipment for election officials and to pay for cleaning and modifying the layout of polling places and the offices of the boards of elections to provide for adequate social distancing;
- To provide equipment to handle increased volumes of mail for the November 3 general election;
- To pay any costs associated with implementing the failsafe voting procedures. The funding may not be used to mail absentee ballot request forms.

“We do not know what future crises we may face as a state, but we do know this: we have the opportunity – and I would say, obligation – to ensure the rules governing our system of free and fair elections are clear, transparent and unambiguous,” Abrams said.

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