Let the Lawsuits Begin in Ohio Voting

Commentary By Brian Davis

Changes in the Hours for Voting.  The Ohio Secretary of State has limited the hours that Ohioans can cast an early ballot in person at the Board of Elections in Ohio.  This will eliminate early evening hours, all Sunday hours, and only two Saturdays for a limited number of hours.  It is expected to create long lines in urban communities who have had maximized the hours available to their voters in order not to over-tax the limited space available for voting.  This is being challenged by a group of ministers and the NAACP in federal court.  Secretary of State Husted argued in a newspaper editorial and on one of the Sunday shows that he was only doing this for “uniformity” of hours throughout the state.  This despite the reality that all the Counties are not uniformed in population or early voting patterns.

Senate Bill 205 prohibits public officials from mailing unsolicited absentee voting applications and prohibits election workers from helping voters fill out their absentee applications.  This is being challenged by the Democratic candidate for Governor as a violation of home rule. This also requires that every part of the absentee ballot envelope be completed or the ballot is rejected.

Senate Bill 238 eliminated Golden Week, which allows voters to register and vote at the same time for one week between 30 and 35 days. According to estimates from the Secretary of State's office, more than 59,000 Ohio voters cast early in-person ballots during golden week in the 2012 presidential election, showing that there is a need for this time for voters to register and/or update their registration and voter during that week. It is also a wonderful way for homeless people who move frequently to participate in voting. This is being challenged also by the ACLU.

Senate Bill 216 creates more reasons to not count provisional ballots, even when it is known that it is a ballot cast by a qualified voter.  It also will make it difficult for advocates such as NEOCH to be able to figure out if a provisional ballot was counted or not counted and for what reason.  This would again reduce the number of legitimate voters who are able to cast ballots.  This law makes the acceptance and counting of provisional ballots confusing and up to the whims of each county.   This law shortened the time a person has to go back and provide proof of identity, and will not allow a person to vote in person without identification.  This law is in direct contrast with the agreement made between the State and NEOCH along with  SEIU in 2010. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle  May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio