Former president Donald Trump won Ohio by eight points last year. The state’s Republican secretary of state crows that the last election was smooth and secure. Ohio is one of the last places where Republicans should be worried about fraud. But, as in seemingly every other state this year, facts have not stopped Ohio GOP lawmakers from pushing for new voting restrictions premised on the pernicious myth that voter fraud is a critical problem.
The latest came this month from a group of Ohio Republican lawmakers. Their bill would ban ballot drop boxes, rescind no-excuse absentee voting, slash early voting, bar election officials from sending out absentee ballot applications and narrow the forms of ID that people may present to vote, ruling out military IDs, bills and paychecks. “It would eliminate some of that fraud that potentially is happening in the system,” one Republican lawmaker told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Potentially” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. Ohio has offered early and no-excuse absentee voting since 2005 without major incident. Other states run their elections almost entirely by mail without seeing substantial deviations from other states in their level of fraud, which is tiny. Yet even the Republican lawmakers in Ohio who have not hopped onto this proposal have sympathized with its goal of curtailing early and absentee voting.
Aside from the usual fuming about fraud, they argue that early and absentee voting make it harder for campaigns to get out their messages, as though voting rules existed for candidates’ convenience. The real reason they want to crimp the early and absentee vote is not hard to discern: Even though Mr. Trump carried Ohio last year, Democratic voters appeared to cast most of the early votes.
Not all Ohio Republicans have united behind the proposal, or at least not yet. Some are using its existence to argue that a different bill that would impose fewer restrictions is actually a common-sense middle ground between Democrats who they claim want ballots “served with breakfast in bed” and Republicans who want a radical voting crackdown. That alternative proposal would: reduce the time people have to request absentee ballots; cut off early voting the day before Election Day; limit drop boxes to only one location per county, and permit their use in only the 10 days before Election Day.
This is not a reasonable compromise — it is simply less terrible. In state after state, the divide is between Republicans who press a range of voting restrictions based on nonsense, and Democrats who favor enabling voter participation. It may be that Democrats benefit from more people voting, but if Republicans cannot compete when more Americans have their say, they should change their candidates and their policies, not discourage people from casting ballots.
As Republicans embrace the “big lie” that pervasive voter fraud cost Mr. Trump the 2020 election, and act on that mistruth, their efforts to restrict voting are likely to accelerate. Congress should have no higher priority than passing a federal voting rights law that curtails these anti-democratic efforts across the map.