September 12, 2007

COLUMBUS- Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on state and local leaders to make meaningful changes to voting protocol in order to facilitate more efficient elections. In letters to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Board of Election Directors from each of Ohio’s 88 counties, the ACLU of Ohio pointed to problems with lack of qualified poll workers, congestion at polls, absentee balloting and voter confusion over polling places and identification as obstacles to restore voter confidence in the election process.

The ACLU of Ohio also proposed several reforms to help solve some of the problems plaguing Ohio’s election system. One improvement championed by the ACLU is recruiting more student poll workers. In 2006, state legislators enacted Ohio House Bill 234, which allowed high school students to leave school for the day in order to serve as poll workers. A few counties implemented programs to attract young people to poll worker positions, but the effort was not widespread.

“Students added to the sheer number of available workers while bringing needed energy and enthusiasm to the process. They could be the secret weapon for more effective, more accurate and more efficient elections in 2008,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso. “We can stem the disillusionment of future voters by making them part of the process now. We urge schools to give release time and consider credit for civic involvement.”

Another reform the ACLU advocated included improved early voting at Boards of Election. While early voting was available during the 2006 election, the ACLU of Ohio received several complaints from voters who were told the machines were not set up or were forced to wait over 40 minutes to cast their ballot. By implementing stricter requirements for Boards of Election to have early voting protocol in place, it may aid congestion at polls.

In addition, the ACLU of Ohio urged state officials to provide uniform identification procedures to ensure all poll workers are aware of what types of ID are required to vote, and also recommended that officials correct problems with the absentee balloting process. To ease confusion over voters possibly voting in the wrong polling location, the ACLU advocated that Boards of Election have more than one precinct at a polling location, instruct poll workers not to force voters to vote provisionally if their correct precinct is only a few feet away and to educate poll workers that memory cards can be used in any of the voting machines in the event that one precinct line is long or a machine malfunction occurs.

“After several elections plagued with problems, state officials have begun the process of reforming outdated and inefficient voting standards. However, there is still much work to be done and it will take the cooperation of elected officials, community leaders, civic organizations and concerned citizens to make meaningful change,” concluded Davis.