After years of debate and lack of action, Ohio is primed to join more than 30 other states in offering online voter registration — but not until after the 2016 presidential election. Supporters say the system would not only save money for county elections boards, but also would make Ohio’s voting system more secure and easier for voters. But it has been held up for years, and delayed again until next year, as some majority Republicans have worried about its political impact. “There are absolutely no good reasons why this should be delayed until 2017 from an administrative point of view,” said Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has pushed for online voter registration since 2011, after the House of Representatives approved the bill today by a 90-2 vote.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
It’s been a rough few week for voting-rights advocates, who have seen a judge reject a challenge to North Carolina’s strict voting law and seen Missouri legislators successfully place a ballot referendum that would amend the state constitution to require photo ID. But they got a win in Ohio today, where a judge in Columbus ruled that a recent law that eliminated a week in which citizens could both register and vote early was unconstitutional. Judge Michael Watson found that the change would disparately impact minority voters, and that the law violated both the 14th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
A federal judge delivered a legal victory Friday to Ohio’s elections chief and a voter sued by Libertarians for their roles in disqualifying the party’s gubernatorial candidate from 2014 fall ballots. A lawyer for the Libertarian Party of Ohio said the party plans to appeal. The party sued Secretary of State Jon Husted and voter Greg Felsoci, alleging they were part of a scheme to selectively enforce Ohio election law to help Republican Gov. John Kasich’s re-election bid. At the time, the third-party gubernatorial candidacy of Libertarian Charlie Earl was seen as potentially drawing votes from Kasich, who later easily won re-election. The lawsuit alleged that improperly singling out the party’s candidates violates the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause.
Ohio: Judge says blind denied voting access but don’t expect changes for November | The Columbus Dispatch
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that blind Ohioans have been denied “meaningful access” to the state’s absentee voting system. However, U.S. District Judge George C. Smith said changes can’t be made prior to the fall election without having to “fundamentally alter Ohio’s voting system as a whole.” Disability Rights Ohio filed a lawsuit in December in federal court alleging Secretary of State Jon Husted discriminated against blind voters by denying them access to a suitable, private absentee voting system, and to his state website. The agency represents three blind residents of Columbus, Cincinnati and Oberlin, Ohio, and the National Federation of the Blind. The suit is based on claimed violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ability to register to vote online won’t be available to Ohio voters until next year, after House Republicans altered a bill that supporters hoped would provide the option immediately. Secretary of State Jon Husted, a key supporter of the bill, would operate the online registration system and has said repeatedly that his office is ready to implement it now, as soon as lawmakers pass the bill. But with a presidential race in November, House Republicans decided to wait until 2017 before giving Ohioans the option of online registration, as is already available in 31 states. “We want to ensure the experience is safe, smooth and accurate,” said Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, R-Marysville. Democrats on the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, including Rep. Mike Curtin, D-Marble Cliff, objected to the change.
Ohio’s elections chief and advocates for the homeless are making their final arguments in a federal lawsuit that could affect how thousands of ballots are cast and counted in the swing state. The advocates, along with the Ohio Democratic Party, are suing Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted over changes made in 2014 to requirements for absentee or provisional ballots. The two sides reiterated their arguments and findings in court briefs last week and are expected to submit their final filings with the court on Thursday. The case would then be left to the judge to decide. … At issue are the laws and procedures for absentee and provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are those cast when a voter’s identity or registration is in question, among other reasons. The voter’s eligibility is verified later.
House Republicans may give Ohioans the convenience of registering to vote online – but perhaps not until after this swing state votes for president. A bill to have Ohio join at least 26 other states with online voter registration has been sitting in the House for nearly a year, after passing the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill is scheduled to be heard again Wednesday, along with potential amendments. Multiple sources said one of those amendments is likely to delay online registration until 2017, so it cannot be used by those who want to vote this November. Secretary of State Jon Husted, a key supporter of the bill, would operate the online registration system and has said repeatedly that his office is ready now, as soon as lawmakers pass the bill.
Republican lawmakers want anyone who goes to court to keep polls open longer on Election Day to hand over enough cash to cover the cost. Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is proposing a change in state law that would require a cash bond, potentially worth thousands of dollars, before a judge could order polls to stay open past the scheduled closing time. Seitz, who already has nine Republican co-sponsors for his bill, said the goal is to prevent what he considers frivolous, last-minute court challenges that keep polls open late and create additional costs for taxpayers. The law also would set a higher standard for proving the need for longer hours and would allow for the immediate appeal of any ruling that extends poll hours. “There will always be some excuse that some activist judge can seize upon,” said Seitz, of Green Township. “Is this intended to retard these last-minute interventions? Yes, it is.”
A panel of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission met again Thursday to consider recommending how to alter the congressional redistricting process, which in its current form allows for rampant partisan gerrymandering. But, in what has become a familiar scene for redistricting reform supporters, the panel again decided not to take action on recommending changes to the process for the legislature to consider. The committee meets again on May 12. Fred Mills, chairman of the panel, said redistricting will be on the agenda and a vote will be scheduled. “Whether or not we’ll actually take a vote is another thing,” he said. The redistricting issue was pulled from the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch Committee in February and placed into a four-person subcommittee, which was supposed to have a recommendation ready within six weeks. That was 10 weeks ago.
Ohio: Absentee ballot fix could impact general election after missing Summit County in the primary | Akron Beacon Journal
Instead of automatically tossing out more than 1,000 absentee ballots in March, innovation and a last-minute directive from state officials allowed Cleveland poll workers to count dozens of votes. After a spike last fall in absentee ballots lacking postmarks, state and county election officials began exploring ways to reduce the number of mail-in ballots that arrive after the election without proof that they were mailed out on time. Ballots that arrive within 10 days of an election may be counted if mailed before the election. The issue, locally, was big. Nearly 900 late ballots in Summit County lacked the sufficient postmark to determine the time of mailing. All were discounted, automatically. Cuyahoga County, which also saw a surge in troublesome ballots, took the lead in researching an alternative solution.