Fighting HB 194: An Attack on Early Voting
On June 29, 2011, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 194, legislation which makes a variety of misguided changes to Ohio’s voting system. The short lines and uncomplicated voting process during 2008’s record voting turnout will be replaced by long waits, confused voters, and a glut of provisional ballots. Provisions of the new legislation included:
- Drastically cutting the timeframe for early in-person voting to 16 days from 35 days;
- Preventing counties from mailing absentee ballot applications to residents; and
- Eliminating the requirement for poll workers to help voters find their right precinct.
During a session on July 13, 2011, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill that corrects one of H.B. 194’s flaws. The bill eliminates the requirement for voters to provide their full Social Security number in order to vote a provisional ballot. Unfortunately, the bill also eliminates online registration and the voter’s ability to present an ID at their local Board of Election before the polls close, if they didn’t have it while voting. Read testimony in opposition to these measures here.
In March 2012, Secretary of State Jon Husted began to advocate the repeal of the controversial HB 194, arguing that it should be scrapped and reexamined after the November 2012 election with legislation that is more bipartisan. Theoretically, repealing HB 194 would render a voter referendum unnecessary, though repealing a law that is under voter referendum is constitutionally unprecedented.
Ohio Republicans latched onto the repeal plan. Despite Husted’s advice to wait until after the election before exploring any new legislation, some legislators suggested they might try to replace HB 194 with a new voter suppression bill before the November 2012 election. The ACLU of Ohio strongly opposes any additional changes to voting laws before the presidential election, except to repeal all voter suppression laws that were passed in 2011.
Additionally, third parties found much to argue with in HB 194. Access to the ballot by minor parties is an important function of democracy. The Libertarian Party of Ohio sued Secretary of State John Husted over HB 194 on the grounds that it would hinder the ability to vote third party. Read the August 2011 Columbus Dispatch coverage here.