Voting Rights Groups Speak Out Against Regressive Election Bills in Ohio

By PV Admin June 7, 2011

Today, Project Vote joined more than 40 civil rights, labor, and youth organizations in protest of proposed election bills that could disenfranchise voters in Ohio.

In a letter to state House Speaker William Batchelder and Senate President Thomas Neiuhaus, the groups note Ohio’s recent strides toward making voting accessible to more voters and more affordable to the state, particularly through in-person and mail absentee voting. The proposed legislation, they caution, would curtail that progress and ultimately hurt voters.

The bills, SB 148 and HB 194, would hinder Ohio voters’ access to the ballot by “dramatically scaling back the window for early voting and eliminating county-level flexibility in crafting innovative, pro-voter policies.”

The bills would also overzealously define “overvoting” to include writing or circling a candidate’s name in addition to clearly marking the ballot for that candidate, resulting in the rejection of a ballot.

The bills’ language would also result in a dramatic increase in the number of provisional ballots cast “while dramatically decreasing the probability that they will be counted.”

“Additionally, SB 148 and HB 194 create a needlessly high burden of proof for poll worker error, further stacking the deck against Ohio Voters,” the letter says. ” Ohio already consistently ranks in the bottom of states for its handling of provisional ballots, and these changes make a bad situation even worse.”

Finally, the bill raises concerns over the regulation of a proposed statewide voter registration database; voter privacy over the use of their Social Security numbers; and changes in the state voter ID requirement.

The groups–which include the ACLU, Rock the Vote, AFL-CIO, League of Women Voters, NAACP, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, among several others–urge Ohio leaders to maintain a “fair, efficient, and accessible voting system” that benefits both the voter and the state. The proposed legislation would only impair their ability to provide that for their citizens.