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Will Ohio Voters Lose “Golden Week?”

PHOTO: Democratic State Senator Nina Turner of Cleveland says bills under consideration in Ohio  will make it more difficult for some Ohioans to cast ballots. Photo courtesy of Turner.
PHOTO: Democratic State Senator Nina Turner of Cleveland says bills under consideration in Ohio will make it more difficult for some Ohioans to cast ballots. Photo courtesy of Turner.
February 13, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Voting rights are under attack in Ohio, according to those opposed to measures under consideration in Columbus. An Ohio House panel this week approved two Republican-backed bills aimed at bringing "fairness and security" to the voting process. Senate Bill 238 would end early voting from 35 to 29 days, and also end so-called "Golden Week," a time when people can register and cast a ballot on the same day.

State Sen. Nina Turner (D-Dist. 25), Cleveland, said the move takes away a necessary convenience for many Ohio voters.

"In essence, they are cutting back on early voting days, which will have impact on certain groups of people: elderly, people of color, students, working-class folks. It's just the wrong thing to do," Turner said.

Senate Bill 205 was also approved, which would restrict any public office other than the Secretary of State's office from sending absentee ballots to voters. Turner noted that in the past, boards of elections had been able to mail out applications, which helped alleviate long lines at polling places. The full House is expected to vote on both measures next week.

The debate over early voting has been heated in Ohio, since the legislature expanded the period and allowed all voters to cast an absentee ballot. Turner said these measures are just another attempt to restrict access to the ballot box.

"Voting should not be partisan at all," Turner said. "It should be about expanding and protecting the right to vote. But what Ohioans have going on right now is a group of elected officials hell-bent on turning back the hands of time. I'm absolutely ashamed."

Supporters of the measures contend that they will help reduce voting fraud, but Turner pointed out that cases of voter fraud are very rare, and she said the state does a good job of ensuring that only eligible voters cast a ballot.

"In Ohio, our laws work. We catch people, the very rare instances where people may cheat. We all want to make sure we have a secure election system," she said, "and that only eligible voters vote."

Meanwhile, efforts continue to get a "Voter Bill of Rights" on the ballot in Ohio. Black legislative leaders, clergy and civil-rights advocates recently submitted a proposal for the measure to the attorney general.



Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH