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Published: Wednesday, 5/16/2012

Kasich signs bill to repeal election law

But 3-day early-voting ban stays

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- With the stroke of a pen Tuesday, Gov. John Kasich undid an election law overhaul that he signed into law a year ago and that had been championed solely by fellow Republicans.

But the question of whether it will take November's ballot question with it may be one for the courts to decide. Democrats argued that a piece of House Bill 194 lives on. The piece forbids in-person early voting during the three days just before an election.

"He agreed with the House and Senate that it was the right thing to do," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said.

Except for restoring the three-day early voting window, the repeal bill signed into law by Mr. Kasich largely resets the election clock in the state to the rules in place before House Bill 194's passage.

Gone are House Bill 194's narrowing of windows for absentee and in-person early voting, its prohibition on mass-mailing of absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, and new restrictions on the counting of last-resort provisional ballots among its numerous other provisions.

But the three-day early voting ban stands because similar language has been inserted into a separate law that Democrats allowed to escape without a similar referendum petition effort. No early voting occurred on those days before the March 6 primary election even though House Bill 194 had been placed on hold pending the outcome of the voter referendum.

"By signing this [repeal] into law today, Governor Kasich is disregarding the wishes of over 400,000 voters who want those three days of early voting back,'' said Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D., Kent). "This overreach by the Republicans could again mire Ohio in expensive litigation during a busy election year.''

Democrats have argued that repealing a law while it was still embroiled in a ballot referendum effort is unconstitutional. But Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state's top elections official, has disagreed.

"With the law at the heart of the referendum on [House Bill] 194 having been repealed, there is no longer a question to place before the voters, and taxpayers will save more than $1 million in the process," he said last week when the House sent the repeal to the governor's desk.

The petition effort that qualified the referendum for the Nov. 6 ballot was largely fueled by Democrats and was backed by President Obama's re-election campaign, which has used it as a fund-raising tool.

The fight to deflect the referendum from the ballot placed Republicans in the awkward position of repealing a law they defended as necessary to create a uniform elections system across the state while saving local boards of election money.

Meanwhile, Democrats have been placed in the position of fighting to keep a law that their voter referendum was designed to kill and which they said would disenfranchise elderly, minority, and college student voters.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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