Brunner suggests voting changes

By David Skolnick

Trumbull election officials are concerned about the proposal.

NILES — Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner wants to reduce the number of days of in-person early voting, but expand the number of places where voters can cast those ballots.

State law now allows people to vote at their county board of elections as early as 35 days before election day.

One issue raised, primarily by Republicans, during the recent election was that there were five days in which people were permitted to register and then immediately vote at a board of elections. That’s because the registration deadline is 30 days before election day.

Instead, Brunner, a Democrat, wants to have 20 days for in-person early voting at four locations in each county. People would still be able to vote by mail as early as 35 days before election day under her plan.

“The overlap period proved to not be controversial,” Brunner said Friday.

But she then said that by shortening the time for early voting, “we’d avoid the controversy of the overlap. I don’t think voters like all the arguing that goes on during that time.”

Brunner said the overlap wasn’t a “bad thing,” but 35 days of early voting is a “long time.”

Changing the early voting time and increasing the number of locations to vote would require action by the state Legislature.

Brunner was at Vernon’s Cafe for an election summit to discuss ways to improve the state’s voting procedures.

Thomas McCabe, Mahoning County Board of Elections director, supports Brunner’s proposal, saying it would provide more access forpeople who want to vote early.

Kelly Pallante and Jodi Fiorenzo Dibble, Trumbull County Board of Elections director and deputy director, respectively, agree that 20 days of early voting is adequate. But they both disagreed with Brunner’s plan to add voting locations.

“Jodi and I are very concerned about the security of the ballots and the cost involved to have those locations properly staffed and secured,” Pallante said.

“The ballots are under lock and key in our place,” Fiorenzo Dibble added. “If you do it at the mall, how do you transport and keep the ballots secure?”

Brunner also spoke Friday against the lame-duck Ohio Senate pushing through legislation that alters the state’s voting process.

The bill eliminates the overlap time for registering and voting. Brunner said she’s most concerned about a provision that requires those registering to vote to wait 30 days before being able to cast a ballot.

That would mean that those who register on the final day to do so couldn’t vote by mail or vote early because they would have to wait 30 days to vote, she said.

“We need to take our time and hear from everyone,” Brunner said.

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, said the Republican-sponsored bill could be voted out of the Senate State and Local Government and Veteran Affairs Committee and up for a full Senate vote as early as Tuesday.

“When they say ‘fast track,’ they mean fast track,” said Cafaro, who called that provision “alarming.”

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