Ahead of the November election, it may get more difficult to vote in Ohio, the quintessential swing state. The GOP-dominated General Assembly is pushing a collection of bills that sponsors – most from Southwest Ohio – say will make voting more fair, secure and efficient. Civil rights leaders and Democrats, however, say the provisions discriminate against the poor and harken back to post-Civil War laws intended to keep African-Americans from voting. Some of the changes would take away conveniences in Ohio’s voting system – for instance, eliminating the chance for someone to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. To state Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township, the potential extra trouble is worth the gains: “Uniformity across the state, cleaning up that process to make it crystal clear as to what everyone’s responsibilities are.”
Opponents say poor people and minorities – who often vote for Democrats – would disproportionately find voting more difficult. “Programs and policies will have the effect (of denying the right to vote), even if they seem to be benign, … putting our state on the wrong side of history,” said Cincinnati civil rights activist Nathaniel Jones, a former federal judge.
Democrats are lining up to oppose the legislation, while Republicans are shooting down their suggested changes. The Legislature is back in session this week, with election bills high on the GOP’s priority list.