An engaged electorate is the backbone of a strong democracy, and making it easier to vote is the best way to encourage participation at the polls.
House Bill 14, a measure introduced by State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, would enable automatic voter registration in Ohio, offering a simplified sign-up process that the Kent legislator says would add roughly 1 million voters to the rolls.
Clyde's bill provides for Ohioans with driver's licenses or state identification cards to be automatically registered to vote when they obtain or renew these documents or interact with other state agencies. High school students would be automatically signed up to vote when they turn 18.
Ohio would join six other states and the District of Columbia that have automatic registration. Measures seeking it are pending in more than half of the states.
Voting, in Clyde's words, is "everyone's ticket to our democracy." Enabling more Ohioans to have a voice in the electoral process is a good idea.
Secretary of State Jon Husted, Ohio's top election official, doesn't support automatic registration. "You're going to put a lot of people on the voter rolls that don't necessarily want to be there," he said. "You'll create a situation where you'll have people who are on the voter rolls that won't know that they're on the voter rolls, who may not want to be on the voter rolls."
There is a provision in House Bill 14 for Ohioans to opt out of the process if they choose not to vote. No one would be compelled to vote even if they were registered without knowing it (which seems highly unlikely in the first place.)
Husted also cites the argument that automatic registration could lead to "a greater risk of fraud," but the secretary of state also recently said that voter fraud "has not been widespread or systemic" in Ohio.
Clyde has become a voice for voter rights during her tenure in Columbus and she has introduced similar legislation in the past that has met with no action. That's unfortunate, but probably not surprising given that she is a progressive Democrat outnumbered by Republicans.
We have said repeatedly that it's in the interest of good government to make it easier to vote. Automatic registration would do exactly that.
"There's no valid reason not to enact this legislation in Ohio," Clyde said. We agree.