Scrap messy election bill


REPUBLICANS in the Ohio General Assembly are spinning their partisan wheels as they try to ram an unnecessary election bill through the legislature during the waning days of its lame-duck session.

The GOP goal is to eliminate the five-day period prior to an election during which Ohioans can register to vote for the first time, then immediately cast a ballot.

The procedure, written into state law by these same Republican lawmakers in 2005, was used without significant problems during the run-up to the Nov. 4 presidential election. Now, in the name of political posturing, the GOP lawmakers have come up with a hastily proposed alternative that would only throw more obstacles in the path of Ohioans trying to exercise their right to vote.

As an election official from Cincinnati put it in testimony submitted to the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week, "Even if there was a problem, Senate Bill 380 makes it worse. Administering the bill will be a nightmare and it serves no useful purpose. Voters will be up in arms when they realize the extra hoops they must jump through. This bill expects voters to know something they can't know - the precise date their voter registration is processed, so they can add 30 days to that date and see if they can even vote absentee. It's a convoluted mess."

Likewise, Linda Howe, Lucas County elections director, cautioned the committee "to slow down and give the legislative process time to work. One month is not enough time to pass election reform legislation no matter how small the issues at hand are perceived to be. Any change to the election calendar has the potential to upset the entire process."

The better course, advocated by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and a number of experienced election administrators like Ms. Howe, is running the proposal through the Ohio Association of Election Officials at the group's January meeting. If a change is necessary, it can be drafted and passed next year by the new legislature after lawmakers have considered it in a bipartisan manner, and without the rush.

The thoughtful approach has so far been rejected by the Republicans, who pushed the bill through the Senate on Tuesday on a party-line vote, claiming - without any actual evidence - that it's necessary to prevent voting fraud.

They're overly anxious to get the bill done now, while they control both chambers of the General Assembly, and avoid having to compromise with Democrats, who will take over in the House in 2009.

That's no excuse to push through ill-conceived legislation. If GOP leaders insist on wasting the rest of the lame-duck session on this measure, Gov. Ted Strickland should veto it.