“The War On Voting” comes to Ohio
Posted by Diana
February 26, 2014
On Wednesday, February 19th, Ohio legislatures passed Senate Bill 238 and Senate Bill 205. SB 238 “would reduce the number of absentee-voting days by six — from the current 35 days before an election down to 29 days before an election. (Absentee ballots for men and women in the armed forces and for overseas voters would continue to be available 45 days before an election.)” SB 205 “would forbid any public official except Ohio’s secretary of state from mailing out unsolicited applications for absentee ballots.” Governor Kasich has signed both.
Instead of 35 days, Ohioans now have 29 days to cast a ballot before an election. 29 days is not bad. Some states don’t allow that much. True. But that doesn’t make SB 238 any less terrible. The right to vote is very important. We should be doing everything in our power to make voting easier and accessible. Cutting back the number of days that people can vote early is not promoting the right to vote, it limits it.
The elimination of Golden Week and restrictions on absentee ballots troubles me deeply. You see, as a busy college student with too much to do and not enough time, I knew that there was no way in hell I was going to stand in line for hours just to vote. Stand in line for hours to get the latest Harry Potter book? Yes. To vote? No. What, I have priorities.
Back in 2012, I didn’t have to stand in line for hours, because I received an absentee ballot in the mail. Sure it was unsolicited but I was nevertheless excited to get it. Now I could still vote and avoid the long lines! This was great news and as my friends will tell you, I sang the praises of absentee ballots for many days after. My reasons for using an absentee ballot was a tad selfish, but there are people out there for whom not having to deal with the long lines is anything but selfish. According to the ACLU of Ohio, voters with disabilities, seniors, the homeless, new Ohio residents, people with a lack of transportation, and others such as parents and/or the working poor, among many others, have utilized Golden Week as a flexible way to register and vote simultaneously. That extra week really matters. It matters to the 59, 000 people who voted during that week in 2012. And for the legislators to get rid of it says to me that they don’t care about those 59,000 people.
Some people cited voter fraud as a reason to support the bill. But we know now that “voter fraud” was actually simple mistakes and confusion. So what is the real reason behind these two bills? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the people who tend to utilise early voting are among society’s’ most vulnerable groups and there are many in power who would like those groups to remain without a voice.
SB 238’s sponsor Frank LaRose was quoted in a November 2013 editorial by the Plain Dealer saying that “it’s just about easing the strain on local boards of elections during their busiest part of the year” The editorial later went to say that “the fact remains, though, that — absent compelling evidence of election fraud during Golden Week — there is no good, pro-voter reason to end the practice.”
In addition to forbidding any public official except the Ohio secretary of state from mailing out applications for absentee ballots, SB 205 also “requires rejection of an absentee ballot if a voter hasn’t provided all the information [they] are asked to provide on the absentee ballot envelope.” A move that the Plain Dealer writes will result in “more hoops, more jumps and, likely, fewer voters.”
Elected officials should be doing everything in their power to increase voter turnout not curb it. Governor Kasich, I am disappointed in you for signing this garbage legislation. Ohio deserves better than that.