CLEVELAND – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and legislative leaders yesterday, presenting a series of recommendations to help improve Ohio's election system.

“Reducing the number of provisional ballots and offering expansive, uniform early voting opportunities is the way forward,” said Mike Brickner, director of communications and public policy. “After a year filled with partisan wrangling and another election with too much confusion, it's time for Ohio to embrace true election integrity, which is achieved by expanding, not restricting the franchise.”

The ACLU letter asks leaders to begin by setting expansive early voting hours for future elections; this includes more weekend hours, which are extremely popular with voters.

“Early voting works,” said Brickner. “Voters have more flexibility to choose when to cast their ballot and do not have to grapple with long lines and confusion. There is no reasonable justification for cutting these hours and a wealth of evidence that supports their uniform expansion.”

The letter also calls on Husted to institutionalize the mailing of absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, a practice he began as part of a compromise with Cuyahoga County in 2012.

“Sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters paid off with a surge in vote-by-mail,” said Brickner. “Continuing this plan in the future will require funding, but it's hard to imagine a better place to invest than this easy and popular method of voting.”

In the aftermath of this presidential election, the ACLU received numerous reports of voter and poll worker confusion on Election Day. One common complaint was that poll workers were unaware of the correct voter ID requirements. In many cases this confusion led to provisional ballots, which have the potential to create serious problems in a close election.

“Lowering the number of provisional ballots should be a major priority for officials,” said Brickner. “Had this election been closer, the number of provisional ballots could have created a nightmare.”

“Given the amount of partisan fighting over the rules, it's not surprising that voters and even some poll workers were confused,” Brickner added. “One inexpensive, nonpartisan solution to this problem would be to require large signage at each polling place, clearly stating the identification rules for all to see on Election Day.”

Additional ACLU suggestions for Husted include setting clear rules for updating the statewide voter database, investigating innovative use of technology, such as electronic poll books and online voter registration, and looking into contingency plans for voters potentially affected by a natural disaster.