Republicans look to pass election reform

By Marc Kovac

Officials said the bill addresses most of the concerns raised before the election.

COLUMBUS — Statehouse Republicans appear poised to move forward with election reform before the end of the year, with the leaders of both legislative chambers voicing their support for action.

Senate President Bill Harris, from Ashland, and House Speaker Jon Husted, from Kettering, spoke to reporters about the issue Tuesday after legislation was introduced in the Ohio Senate to prohibit same-day voter registration and absentee voting.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, also includes provisions that would allow observers at early voting sites and require the secretary of state to notify local boards of any voter database mismatches (cases where voters registration information is different from their motor vehicle records).

Harris said he believes there is time to move the legislation (Senate Bill 380) through the committee process, giving proponents, opponents and other interested parties ample opportunity for comment. The Legislature has scheduled voting sessions through Dec. 18.

“It’s a bill that we can have sufficient hearings in the Senate and let everyone that wants to testify have a chance to testify,” Harris said, adding, “I think we can get it passed out of the Senate and get it into the House in time that the House [can act on it].”

Husted said that he hadn’t read the new legislation yet but that there was support among the House’s Republican majority for election reform.

“I think it addresses probably some of the most ... vocal concerns that were expressed during the course of the election,” he said of the bill. “Look, we can’t avoid those issues, and the idea of beginning to discuss solutions to the controversies that existed seems [to me to be] an appropriate thing to do.”

He added, “We’ll wait and see what the Senate passes and then determine whether or not we have support for that over here. I suspect, given what I’ve heard from a lot of the members that I talked to, that they are interested in trying to deal with those issues.”

In addition to legislative action on elections, Husted said he also hoped to address the state’s use of private citizens’ information, specifically in reference to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services background check on Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher.

“That is probably one of the most egregious things that occurred in this election cycle as it relates to our democracy and confidence in the system that we have,” he said.

Asked whether his chamber would move forward with legislation not supported by the governor, Husted replied: “Bipartisanship is a two-way street. It doesn’t mean just doing what the governor wants. The governor sometimes has to do some of the things that we want. And I don’t see any reason why, in the remaining months of the General Assembly, that the environment that we’ve largely been able to work under of cooperation can’t continue.”

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