Ohio Further Restricts Absentee Voting

Ohio’s legislature voted to shorten the absentee voting timeframe and to restrict access to absentee ballot applications. “Voter rights advocates said reducing early voting days would disenfranchise voters and lead to longer lines at the polls. They also questioned the urgency and motive behind passing the bills.” Senate Bill 238 will eliminate six early voting days during which time people can register to vote and cast an in-person absentee ballot. Senate Bill 205 will prohibit county boards of election from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications. The Ohio Secretary of State will be allowed to send such applications only if the legislature appropriates the necessary funds.

While Secretary of State Jon Husted has admitted that absentee voter fraud is rare, proponents of Senate Bill 238 claimed that it was necessary to institute a clear interval between the voter registration and voting periods in order to crack down on voter fraud. Governor John Kasich quickly signed both bills into law, and they will be in effect for the November 2014 elections.

These bills come on the heels of a late 2013 bill passed by the Ohio legislature that reduced the number of voting machines that counties must have on hand for elections. The trend in Ohio has voting rights advocates concerned that this all-important swing state may discourage tens of thousands of Buckeye State voters from casting a ballot. In an era when voting should be made easier and more accessible, Ohio still suffers from excessively long lines at polling places, which is an effective deterrent in and of itself.