By Marc Kovac
Gov. John Kasich has signed into law Republican-backed legislation setting requirements for casting provisional ballots.
The governor added his signature to SB 216 in private Friday, a week after finalizing two other GOP election-related bills in comparable fashion.
The Ohio House and Senate approved the bill Wednesday over continued objections from Democrats, who said it would make it harder for eligible Ohioans to cast ballots and could mean more legitimate votes are thrown out.
The bill focuses on provisional ballots, which are cast by individuals whose eligibility is questioned, often for failing to have proper identification when voting or neglecting to update their registration information.
Among other provisions, SB 216 seeks to 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, reduces to seven from 10 the number of days voters who cast such ballots have to verify their eligibility, and requires additional information to be included on provisional ballot paperwork.
The law changes will not take effect until after the May 6 primary.
“This legislation is designed to reduce the number of provisional ballots cast and provide voters with a convenient, easy way to update their registration,” Rep. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, who serves as chairman of the committee that considered the bill, said in a released statement.
But Statehouse Democrats said the bill and others are attempts to prevent certain voters from participating in elections.
“Ohio’s elected officials should be making it easier, not harder to vote,” Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, who is running for secretary of state, said in a released statement.
“Unfortunately, SB 216 will increase the likelihood that eligible voters will be tripped up by paperwork errors and have their ballots unnecessarily disqualified. Elections are not to test whether voters can properly fill out forms — they are to discern the will of the people,” she said.