Legislators deciding election issues

Measures would increase rules for absentee ballot voting, mailings


Senate Bill 238, sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose (R., Fairlawn). Eliminates “Golden Week,” the overlap in deadlines that allows would-be voters to register and immediately cast an absentee ballot.

Senate Bill 205, sponsored by Sen. Bill Coley (R., West Chester): Prohibits mass mailing of absentee ballot applications by any public official other than the secretary of state, and then only if the General Assembly appropriates funding. Also increases the field of required information that must be provided on absentee ballots.

Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Sen. Joe Uecker (R., Loveland): Requires greater cooperation of state agencies with the secretary of state for cross-referencing of information in statewide voter registration database.

Senate Bill 216, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati): Increase the information that must be provided on provisional ballots in order for them to be counted.

COLUMBUS — Voting advocates on Thursday urged Gov. John Kasich to veto bills headed for his desk that they argue could make it more difficult to cast a ballot and be sure it was counted.

The Ohio Senate has gone home for the year, but the state House of Representatives is expected to return next week to consider several election-related bills passed by the upper chamber.

The measures would increase the information voters must provide to obtain absentee ballots and prohibit mass-mailing of absentee ballot applications to registered voters by any public official other than the secretary of state — and even then, only when the General Assembly appropriates funding.

Another would reduce the number of days for absentee voting by mail or in person to eliminate the so-called “Golden Week,” in which would-be voters could register and then immediately cast a ballot. Yet another would increase information sharing among governmental entities, such as death certificates and driver’s license information, for cross-referencing with the state’s voter-registration database and change the formula to require fewer voting machines.

More controversial bills have been introduced that would do such things as further restrict early voting days and hours and require voters to show photo identification. Those have yet to see action.

Some measures would re-enact, on a piecemeal basis, provisions similar to those included in a Republican-backed law passed in 2011 that was repealed months later by the Republican majority once it was clear a referendum challenging it was headed to the ballot.

“What we see now is a rebuilding of House Bill 194 brick by brick …,” said Deirdre Reese, coordinator of the Columbus-based Ohio Unity Coalition. “We have seen bills rush through so quickly, it really should make your head spin.”

The House has one legislative day left on its calendar before beginning its own holiday recess.

House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) has said he hopes to get the voting bills through his chamber before the year’s end because of their effect on the 2014 election.

If the chamber makes no changes, the bills could go directly to Mr. Kasich’s desk. If it does amend them, they would have to return to the Senate for concurrence, a move that would carry debate into 2014.

“It is possible they will come up for a vote,” House Republican spokesman Mike Dittoe said. “The caucus will talk early next week. … I don’t think there’s any sense we’re trying to rush anything. We’re trying to make good policy.”

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols offered no commitments, saying only that the governor’s office is monitoring the bills as the legislative process continues.

“If the General Assembly doesn’t slow down the train, it’s the responsibility of the governor to do so,” said Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio.

By moving the voting bills on a piecemeal basis, it would make it more difficult to subject their provisions to a ballot referendum.

“How many clipboards can we carry at one time?” Ms. Reese asked.

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