Thankfully, Ohio’s nightmare election scenario didn’t happen. Ohio, THE critical swing state in the nation, got enough of its votes counted on election night that the fate of its 18 electoral votes was known by midnight. The rest of the nation did not need to wait in limbo for days or weeks to find out whom the next president would be. But let’s not get comfortable. The system did not work the best it can. More than 200,000 people voted provisionally, and their ballots still haven’t been counted. Lawsuits were filed at the 11th hour and some are still in court. And some voters waited in line for two hours or more to cast their ballots.
Unless Ohio figures out how to make its voting process less contentious, we may not be so lucky in the next election. We’ll be electing a governor in two years and in four years a wide-open race for president is likely to mean a slew of candidates, spending and political gamesmanship.
Now is the time for legislators and election experts to take a deep breath and summon the will to make changes. The reforms should be just that – reform, not attempts to gain political advantage. The goal should be to ensure voters enjoy broad access to the polls and confidence their votes will be counted.
Two parts of Ohio election law have been the main points of contention – early voting and provisional ballots. Both serve a good purpose, but both need reform.
Voters are asked to vote provisional ballots when there’s a question about their address or if they’re at the wrong polling location. That ballot is then later checked to make sure they are properly registered. If so, the ballot is counted, but not until 10 days after the election.
The problem is too many Ohio voters vote provisionally – 204,000 in this last election. In a tighter race that could have been enough to swing the election. Too many of these ballots end up not getting counted often because of minor errors in filling out the big yellow envelope that the ballot is placed in.
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