Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016
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Politics

Hurdle cleared for Ohio Voter Bill of Rights

385,000 signatures sought by July 2 to qualify for Nov. 2 ballot

COLUMBUS — A group working to write a Voter Bill of Rights into the Ohio Constitution can hit the streets to start gathering more than 385,000 valid signatures of registered voters after clearing a hurdle with the Ohio Ballot Board today.

The bipartisan panel unanimously agreed that the lengthy proposed amendment is a single issue that should be posed to voters on the ballot as a single question.

The group will be battling the clock to gather the signatures by July 2 in order to qualify for the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

Among other things, it would set minimum days and hours for early voting, authorize electronic voter registration, provide more options for voter identification at the polls, and set less stringent rules for counting provisional ballots. Some of the provisions are specifically designed to do undo recent legislation enacted by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

“I would describe it as a tapestry,” said Don McTigue, attorney for the coalition behind the amendment. “They are interwoven. Each of those divisions deals with one aspect of voting rights, and together they present the bill of rights or the tapestry of rights for voters in Ohio.”

Sen. Bill Coley (R., West Chester) voted with the rest of the panel to present the issue to voters as a single question, despite questioning Mr. McTigue about alleged discrepancies between some of the amendment’s provisions and federal law or court rulings.

“This is a very expansive piece of change to Ohio voting law,” he said.

The vote was unanimous despite the fact that the two candidates competing for secretary of state, Ohio’s top elections official, are on the panel — incumbent Republican Jon Husted and Democratic state Sen. Nina Turner (D., Cleveland).

Voting rights — specifically recent legislation affecting early and absentee voting, provisional ballots, voter registration, and minor party access to the ballot — have become leading issue in the campaign.

A coalition of black clergy, civil rights advocates, and some Democratic lawmakers, including Ms. Turner, is pushing the amendment.

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