Washington, D.C./ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 28, 2024
AG Schwalb Champions Fight Against Ohio Law Limiting Voting Assistance for Disabled CitizensSource: Wikipedia/District of Columbia Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb is at the forefront of a legal battle against an Ohio law deemed a threat to voters with disabilities. According to a brief filed in Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Schwalb and a coalition of seven attorneys general oppose the legislation, making it a felony to handle absentee ballots unless you're either postal workers or closely related to the voter. Schwalb argues that this law unfairly discriminates against voters who may need assistance due to disabilities, contravening several federal laws aimed at protecting their right to vote.

The case, which throws support behind a voting rights organization and an Ohio voter suffering from a degenerative disease, claims the law violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Voting Rights Act. The coalition led by Schwalb, while maintaining a firm stand against this restrictive law, found the backing of attorneys general from Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York in their fight to protect democratic processes that the law challenges. A United States Election Commission Survey cited by Schwalb revealed the law could disenfranchise voters with disabilities; friends or neighbors who provided ballot assistance to nearly a fifth of disabled voters in 2022 would be sidelined under Ohio's new statute.

In a move met with broad support from some sections of the electorate, Schwalb said, "Every eligible voter who wants to vote should be able to do so—full stop. Ohio's law violates this fundamental democratic principle by creating unnecessary obstacles that will make it harder for millions of people to cast a ballot—and disproportionately harms voters with disabilities." Critics argue this law does nothing to buttress election security, branding it un-American. They contend that absentee voting is seldom fraudulent, citing only 491 cases of fraud out of billions of votes cast from 2000 to 2012.

Ohio stands almost alone with its inflexible stance on absentee ballot laws, closely rivalled by only a few states like Texas and Iowa. Yet, even those states provide certain allowances for voters with disabilities. According to the coalition's brief, the Ohio law not only creates unnecessary barriers but also offers no tangible improvement to election security. Caroline S. Van Zile, Ashwin P. Phatak, and Sean Frazzette from the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia spearheaded this matter. Combined with other efforts like opposing Congress in matters affecting DC voters, Schwalb's office has cemented its role as a staunch defender of voting rights on multiple fronts.