COLUMBUS — The third bill so far this year imposing new restrictions on casting ballots is expected to clear a committee today on its way to the full House.
The bill, which would increase the field of information voters must supply for their last-resort provisional ballots to be counted, will have to wait in line. Two bills affecting absentee and early voting are ahead of it for full House votes as soon as today.
Under the bill, a voter who casts a provisional ballot must provide a current home address and birth date on top of existing requirements for name, signature, and the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number or a driver’s license number.
Senate Bill 216, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), also clarifies that it would be the voter’s responsibility, not the workers at the poll, to ensure the information is complete. If it is determined that the information was incomplete, the board of elections will contact the would-be voter by mail to give him up to seven days after the election to fix it.
Adele Eisner, a Cuyahoga County voting-rights advocate, told the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee that some provisions of the bill fly in the face of what a provisional ballot is supposed to be — a final catch-all ballot for legitimate voters to be counted only after the voter’s eligibility is verified after the polls close and a way to correct innocent error without the threat of criminal prosecution.
“I don’t see how homeless people can vote right now …,” she said. “If they don’t supply [information] to the board, they’re supposed to come to the board afterwards.”
She also claimed the mandated language for provisional ballot forms is too complicated.
“This almost feels like a literacy test,” she said.
The committee also held another hearing on House Bill 250, sponsored by Rep. John Becker (R., Cincinnati), that would further narrow the window for absentee voting by mail or in person to 17 days before the election, with in-person early voting halting at the close of business on the Friday before the election.
“We and most other groups do most of our work in the last two weeks of the campaign and, because of the current rules, many people have already voted before we can make our case to them,” said Tom Zawistowsi, executive director of Portage County Tea Party. “Two weeks is more than enough time for people to vote early.”
That bill is not expected to move, but the House is poised today to approve Senate Bill 238, sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose (R., Fairlawn), to shave six to seven days off the 35-day early voting window, depending on the calendar.
The GOP-controlled chamber is also expected to pass Senate Bill 205, sponsored by Sen. Bill Coley (R., West Chester), that, like the provisional ballot bill, adds to the information required on absentee ballot and application envelopes.
It also would prohibit any public official other than the secretary of state from mass-mailing absentee ballot applications to registered voters. Even then, the General Assembly would have to appropriate the funds before doing so.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.
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