Needed Election Reform in Ohio

Ohio Voter Integrity Project through vigilant work has pinpointed specific areas for election reform.

Voter Registration

1.  Thirty Day Residence Rule – The Ohio Revised Code needs clarification of the “residency” rule pertaining voter registrations.  Under current law, people who register to vote in Ohio must be “residents” of Ohio for 30 days preceding the election in which they intend to vote.

As Ohio VIP revealed through the Randy Simes case, the 30 day residency rule was disregarded by the Hamilton County Board of Elections.  Simes, a former Ohio resident, moved to Chicago Illinois where he registered and voted in Chicago in the 2012 General Election.  In 2013, prior to being transferred overseas for business, Simes re-registered to vote in Ohio (at a friend’s address) and voted in the September and November 2013 elections. Simes never physically “moved” back to Ohio in 2013 however the Hamilton County Board of Elections granted him the right to vote in Cincinnati based on his “intent” to move to Cincinnati in 2015.

Ohio VIP disagrees with the Board’s decision and wants the law to be clearer as to the definition of “residency” in this application.  Perhaps the result of the pending lawsuit (STATE ex rel. BARBARA HOLWADEL, et al., Relators, v. HAMILTON COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, et al., Respondents.)  will bring clarity.

2.  Short Term Rehab Facilities – Voters should not be allowed to register at short term rehabilitation facilities when, based on their maximum length of stay, they will not be residing at that facility for the next election.

3. Voter Registration Forms – The Ohio Voter Registration Form must be changed to add language that specifies that a registrant’s address cannot be a commercial address, place of business, PO Box or mail forwarding center.   Currently the Voter Registration Form only specifies “House Number and Street” as the requirement for the address field.

Voting

1.  Assisted Voters – Ohio VIP wants the law to REQUIRE that all assisted voters fill out a Form 228, the “Declaration of Elector unable to mark a Ballot” to communicate to the BOE who assisted them in voting.

In Franklin County in 2012, hundreds of non-English speaking Somalian voters were allowed to vote with the aid of family members and interpreters and did not complete the Form 228.  This is because Franklin County interprets the ORC as not requiring the use of this form.

In ORC Sec. 3505.24 states, “…Any judge may require a declaration of inability to be made by the elector under oath before the judge…..”  It was the word “may” that was cited as the reason the Franklin County BOE did not use the form 228.   Ohio VIP suggests that the word “may” be replaced with the word “shall.”

2.  Early Voting – Ohio VIP believes that early voting, aka. “in-person absentee” voting should require the voter to provide identification similar to what is required at their precinct polling location on Election Day. Currently by law, all early voting (in-person and mail in absentee) has the same standards for ID; which is that no ID needs to be provided.

Ohio VIP feels that there should not be the same ID requirements for in-person early voting and mail-in absentee voting because they are completely different situations.  Unlike mail-in absentee ballots which are mailed to the voter’s residence, the in-person early voter does not have to show any connection to the address where they are registered and are only required to verbally give their address to the BOE.  Requiring a form of approved identification for the in-person early voter would give some assurance that the voter still resides where they are registered.

3.  Challenged Voters – Currently any challenged voter, whether or not the Board has ruled on the challenge, is considered “Challenged” per ORC 3505.20 and either fills out the 10-U form and votes a regular ballot or is required to vote provisionally. In our opinion, the law should read that:

  1. Only voters that have been successfully challenged are classified as “Challenged” for voting purposes.
  2. Voters for whom a challenge has been postponed should not be considered “Challenged” for that election and may be challenged in future elections if and only if the challenge is ruled by the Board as successful in the future.
  3. All successfully challenged voters MUST vote a provisional ballot and have to appear at the Board of Elections to remedy their provisional ballot within the time prescribed by law in order for their ballot to be counted.

The benefits of this law change:

  • Only voters that have been successfully challenged as ruled by the Board will have to vote provisionally, thus prohibiting unsubstantiated or unapproved voter challenges from affecting the voting rights of citizens.
  • All successfully challenged voters must vote provisionally. This closes the current loophole whereby they can sign the form 10-U and vote a regular ballot.
  • The form 10-U is eliminated altogether. In our opinion this form and process are flawed anyway.  In order to properly complete the form 10-U, the presiding judge needs to know the reason for the voter challenge.  See ORC 3505.20. However the presiding judge receives only the names of the challenged voters, not the challenge reason.  The presiding judge does not have sufficient information to accurately determine if a challenged voter should vote a regular or a provisional ballot and thus should not be put in the position to make the determination.

 Provisional Voting

1.  Provisional Ballots – Provisional ballots should be printed in a color different from the regular ballots to ensure that these ballots if improperly scanned can be retrieved from the scanned ballots and the vote count adjusted for non-approved provisional ballots by the Board of Elections.

Revisions to Election Forms

1.  Voter Registration Confirmation Notice – The current process for confirming voter registrations is flawed. When a voter files a new registration, the Board of Elections sends a confirmation card to the voter.  If the confirmation card is not returned as “undelivered” the voter registration address is assumed to be legitimate and the voter is confirmed.

The problem with this process is that there are many reasons a confirmation card is not returned to the BOE.  The card can be lost in the mail or discarded by the current resident at that address.

To ensure that the confirmation card reaches the voter at the address provided on the registration, the voter should have to sign and return the card to the BOE.

2.  Returned Mail – Voter Registration Notices have the words “Return Service Requested” buried in the information section of the card.  This wording should be printed in bold letters above the recipients address so that the Post Office knows to return the card to the BOE if undeliverable.

3. Outdated VR forms – Outdated registration forms are still in use by government agencies. Ohio VIP suggests that when a new voter registration form is issued by the Secretary of State, all paper VRs currently in use should immediately be discarded.  There should be a six month grace period for people who submit a registration using an old VR form.

Observers on Election Day

1.  Observer’s  Conduct – Current law dictates that election observers must sign the Signature poll book and have an accreditation with them and on file with the BOE to observe.  In addition, the BOE instructs their election officials about the parameters of what an Election Observer is allowed to do and not do by law. However Ohio VIP discovered that in the 2012 General Election there was still confusion between the Presiding Judge and the Poll Observer about the rules pertaining to Election Observers at the polls.

As suggested by Ohio VIP, the Hamilton County BOE has added a laminated sheet to the Election Day materials that details the Do’s and Don’ts concerning Election Observers as a reference for both the poll workers and the observer.    This change should be implemented state-wide.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) non Compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (Motor Voter)

From our research and visits to several BMV’s in Hamilton and Montgomery Counties, Ohio VIP observed the following violations of NVRA:

  1. There was no single person in charge of voter registrations
  2. There was no voter registration information available either in handout form or posted on the walls.
  3. Voter registration forms, printed by the BMV to be mailed by voter to the BOE or SOS, were not the current VR forms.  Some BMV workers did not give the VR instruction sheet to the voter along with the mail VR form.
  4. BMVs are erroneously changing the voters address on their voter registration to the address on their driver’s license without the voter’s written authority.