Ohio House OKs GOP-backed election law changes
By Marc Kovac
The Ohio House OK’d more Republican-backed election law changes, this time focusing on the reasons and requirements for casting provisional ballots.
SB 216 passed Wednesday in similar fashion to two other election bills that moved through the chamber a week ago, with a party-line vote of 58-36 and continued objections from Democrats.
Provisional ballots are cast by voters whose eligibility is called into question, often for failing to have proper identification or to notify elections officials of address changes.
Rep. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, who serves as chairman of the committee that considered the legislation, said more than 200,000 such ballots were cast during the 2012 presidential election.
Of those, about 173,000 were ultimately counted. More than 34,000 ballots were not because voters were not registered in the state or had cast ballots in the wrong precincts and wrong polling places.
Among other provisions, SB 216 outlines information that will be required when provisional ballots are cast, including affected voters’ names, addresses, birth dates and signatures.
Dovilla said the legislation would ensure ballots cast in the correct polling place but wrong precinct — so-called right church, wrong pew voters — would be counted, while those cast in the wrong polling place and precinct would not.
The legislation also simplifies the reasons for voting provisionally and reduces to seven from 10 the number of days voters who cast such ballots have to verify their eligibility.
Democrats said the bill would make it harder for people to vote.
“It will result in more votes [being] thrown out, which is effectively disenfranchising voters,” said Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent. “It will create a bunch of new roadblocks, barriers and hurdles ... for voters to fill out on their envelope. If they make any mistakes or accidentally leave something off, their vote will be thrown out.”
Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, renewed her call for a moratorium on election-law changes until voters have an opportunity to decide whether to amend the state constitution to solidify eligibility requirements, early-voting hours and other election-related issues.