From the Cincinnati Enquirer, January 12, 2014
PROTECT YOUR VOTE
VOTING IN OHIO IS GETTING MORE DIFFICULT, BUT IS IT MORE FAIR?
COLUMBUS — Ahead of the November election, it may get more difficult to vote in Ohio, the quintessential swing state.
The GOP-dominated General Assembly is pushing a collection of bills that sponsors – most from Southwest Ohio – say will make voting more fair, secure and efficient. Civil rights leaders and Democrats, however, say the provisions discriminate against the poor and harken back to post-Civil War laws intended to keep African-Americans from voting.
Some of the changes would take away conveniences in Ohio’s voting system – for instance, eliminating the chance for someone to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day.
To state Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township, the potential extra trouble is worth the gains: “Uniformity across the state, cleaning up that process to make it crystal clear as to what everyone’s responsibilities are.”
Opponents say poor people and minorities – who often vote for Democrats – would disproportionately find voting more difficult. “Programs and policies will have the effect (of denying the right to vote), even if they seem to be benign, … putting our state on the wrong side of history,” said Cincinnati civil rights activist Nathaniel Jones, a former federal judge.
Democrats are lining up to oppose the legislation, while Republicans are shooting down their suggested changes. The Legislature is back in session this week, with election bills high on the GOP’s priority list. These bills may affect your experience at the polls:
ABSENTEE BALLOT APPLICATIONS
Since 2006, Cuyahoga County’s Board of Elections had mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters; Hamilton County and several other urban counties also mailed ballots to every voter. But in 2011, citing a need for uniformity across the state, Secretary of State Husted prohibited county boards of elections from doing so.
When the Cuyahoga government threatened to mail the ballots itself, Husted agreed to use federal money to send every registered Ohioan an application for the 2012 presidential election. He plans to do so ahead of the November 2014 election, using leftover federal money.
That practice could continue under a bill that has passed the Senate, but only if the General Assembly continues to appropriate money. And employees in the secretary of state’s office would be the only government officials who could legally send out absentee ballot applications, nixing the practice at the county level.
The bill also tells officials to disqualify absentee ballots that have an incomplete identification section.
Why supporters like it: “One thing that was clear from (court rulings) in the 2012 election was that there’s one set of rules for everybody in the state,” said Coley, the Liberty Township senator who sponsored the bill. “By golly, that’s what we’re doing.”
What opponents say: They want counties to be allowed to pay to mail absentee ballots if they see the need.
“The needs of a smaller county are in fact different than a larger county … and the practices and culture of voting are actually different,” said Catherine Turcer, who specializes in voter-rights issues at advocacy group Common Cause Ohio.
Where it stands: Dovilla is open to adding to the bill provisions such as online voter registration. That’s a change championed by Husted, along with some lawmakers in both parties. Even then, Democrats are unlikely to vote for a bill they already dislike. Still, expect the bill to pass and then be signed into law.
Click here to read the entire article. Also discussed are “Eliminating Golden Week”, “Voter Roll Updates”, “Third Party Candidates” and “Right Church Wrong Pew.”