There were a series of positive editorials about the importance of early voting and opposing the legislation that would restrict voting. The Toledo Blade weighed in with an editorial claiming restrictions are "a rear-guard strategy that will ultimately backfire." The Akron Beacon Journal had a similar editorial condemning the potential changes. It was good to see two strong newspaper editorials opposed to these changes, and here are what others are saying:
"Everybody likes early voting," said Cathy Johnston, advocacy director for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO). Johnston noted that early voting has gained tremendous popularity since 2006 when the Republican-dominated legislature initiated HB 3 in response to excessively long lines during the 2004 election. "Is the goal to take away a voting method that people like and have gotten used to?" asked Johnston.
The bill, HB 250 introduced by Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township), would cut early voting days from 35 to 17. It has met with only tepid success in its request for co-sponsors; currently it has three.
Advocates say that early in-person voting is not only more convenient for busy Ohio families, but helps alleviate long lines at the polls on election day.
"Voters like early voting and they should have a variety of hours in which to vote in person,"said Carrie Davis, executive director of League of Women Voters of Ohio.
"The availability of in-person early voting is one of the best features of current Ohio law," added Daniel Tokaji, law professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. "It not only makes it easier for eligible citizens to participate in our democratic process but also helps reduce pressure on polling places on Election Day."
Early in-person voting has become increasingly popular across Ohio. Early in-person absentee voting increased 33% from 2008 to 2012 in smaller counties, according to Norman Robbins of the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates. In 2012, early voting was extremely popular throughout Ohio, including voting on the last weekend before Election Day.
"Ever since Ohio adopted early voting, the number of voters who choose to vote early continues to grow," said Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio. "Early voting provides better access to the polls for busy Ohioans in urban as well as rural communities. We should be embracing measures that get more voters to the polls rather than trying to restrict a popular, convenient and established voting practice. That 35-day period should remain a central part of our elections fabric," she said.
COHHIO started a petition on Change.org to ask that the legislature turn down this proposal limiting access to voting. Click here to sign the petition.