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League of Women Voters of Ohio files federal lawsuit over election law

This story was originally published by Spectrum News.

Part of Ohio’s newest election law is being challenged in federal court. Voters’ rights groups say it's making it harder for some Ohioans from being able to cast their vote legally.

The League of Women Voters Ohio is filing a joint-lawsuit challenging the part of the law that limits who can deliver an absentee ballot to the board of elections.

"The challenge is that if someone helps them unless they are in this list which is a very limited list of helpers, you could get a felony for helping someone," said Jen Miller, Executive Director of The League of Women Voters of Ohio.

The groups involved in the lawsuit are asking the federal court to strike down language in the law so that non-family members can legally help voters with disabilities handle their absentee ballots. 

The list of people that can drop off ballots includes certain family members: spouses, parents, in-laws, grandparents, kids and siblings. But, it doesn’t include grandchildren, cousins, nurses or caregivers.

Meanwhile, supporters of the election law, including State Senator Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, who helped write the law, said it helps reduce voter fraud. 

"We want to make sure people can't gather a bunch of ballots and drop them off," said Gavarone. "Certainly nowadays in a drop box, it's just it undermines the integrity of our election." 

"They can hand it to the postman who comes every day to drop off the mail," said State Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland). "Or, pick up mail at the nursing home. There's plenty of opportunities here. And what we want to do is we're certainly not trying to prevent disabled people from voting." 

The League of Women Voters Ohio says the law violates the voting rights and part of the American with Disabilities Act. However, that will only be determined by a federal judge. 

"The court might say that with respect to people with disabilities, those rules have to be interpreted more narrowly to give them a reasonable chance to participate in elections. Now, that's not the only way this case could come out of court," said Jonathan Entin, a professor of law at Case Western Reserve University.