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Published: Wednesday, 11/23/2011

Ohio ballot in '12 likely to include election law

Additional signatures filed for referendum


COLUMBUS -- Opponents of a new law limiting absentee voting and early voting and making numerous other changes to Ohio elections law filed an additional 166,481 signatures Tuesday to virtually guarantee that voters will serve as final judges on the measure next year.

Led largely by former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and fellow Democrats and with support from President Obama's campaign, the latest petition filings are expected to be far more than the roughly 10,000 needed to patch a hole in the coalition's first filing at the end of September.

The group never stopped gathering signatures during the period that boards of elections scrutinized their first petitions.

The referendum on House Bill 194 would appear on the November, 2012, ballot. In the meantime, the law will remain on hold.

Supporters of the law said it was needed to put all of Ohio's 88 counties on the same page, particularly when it came to offering extra hours for early voting and the counting of provisional ballots, the ballot of last resort for voters whose eligibility is in question.

House Bill 194 would shorten the pre-election window from 35 days to 21 days for casting absentee ballots and from 35 days to 17 days for in-person early voting, excluding Sundays and the three days before the election.

In polling places with multiple precincts, a poll worker would no longer be required to direct a voter who is in the right building but at the wrong precinct table to the right precinct. It was this provision that prompted the League of Women Voters to endorse the referendum effort.

The law also would prohibit county election boards from mass-mailing absentee ballot applications to registered voters.

In all, supporters of the referendum needed to file 231,147 valid signatures of registered voters.

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