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Voting Law Roundup: Changes for Ohioans in 2016

New rules for absentee and provisional ballots in Ohio are being challenged in federal court. (Pixabay)
New rules for absentee and provisional ballots in Ohio are being challenged in federal court. (Pixabay)
April 20, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's elimination of "Golden Week" is among the policy measures highlighted in a new national report on voting restrictions.

A roundup of election laws by the Brennan Center for Justice has shown that voters in 17 states, including Ohio, will face some new restrictions for the first time in a presidential election. Among them is the end of "Golden Week," a six-day period when Ohioans could register and vote at the same time.

Carrie Davis, president of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said there are new rules for absentee and provisional ballots, now being challenged in federal court.

"The law was passed that required some additional fields to be filled out on absentee and provisional ballot forms, and said that, if the forms are not filled out completely, they can be rejected," she said. "The issue is, when is it proper not to reject those?"

Nationally, many states are considering changes to voting laws. According to the report, more than 420 bills that would enhance voting access were introduced or carried over from prior legislative sessions, while 77 bills would restrict access to registration and voting.

Davis said election law is always changing, and there's added confusion when the changes are challenged immediately before an election.

"The average person isn't really confronted with those changes until they're getting ready to go vote," she said, "and that's why a lot of times, we'll see these disagreements and these controversies right before the election - because that's when people are paying attention."

Davis said 1.3 million Ohioans who are registered to vote have not cast a ballot since November 2012, and recommended that all eligible voters learn which voting rules are in place, and double-check their registration.

"Last year, the secretary of state was doing voter-roll maintenance," she said. "There were a whole lot of voters who were removed from the rolls. That issue is currently being challenged, but regardless of how that court case eventually gets resolved, we know there are a whole lot of people who were registered who aren't anymore."

Nationally, most voting policy changes involve voter identification, but Davis said Ohio's policy on ID at the polls has been the same for a decade.

The report is online at brennancenter.org.

Mary Kuhlman/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - OH