Gov. John Kasich signed two GOP-sponsored bills today that shorten early voting in Ohio and change the process for mailing absentee ballot applications statewide, potentially inviting a legal challenge from his likely Democratic opponent. Kasich put his name on Senate Bill 238 — which eliminates “Golden Week,” when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day — and Senate Bill 205, which requires the approval of the legislature for the secretary of state to mail absentee applications statewide. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, who also serves as the elected Cuyahoga County executive, said he has asked his county law director to review the two bills and is considering taking legal action. “We’ve done that before,” FitzGerald said. “We are the only county in Ohio that when they tried to change the election rules at the last minute in 2012, of course there was a lawsuit over that, there was only one county in Ohio that filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief.
“We’re going to look at doing it again because I think these restrictions are outrageous and unnecessary and totally motivated by a desire to make it tougher to vote.”
The House Democratic caucus filed a formal protest today over the passage of the two bills. Under Senate Bill 238, the number of days Ohioans can vote early would shrink from 35 to 29; Republicans say Ohio will still be among the nation’s leaders in the number of days people can vote early. The bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials has contended that allowing people to register and vote on the same day makes it difficult to properly validate those voters.
Under Senate Bill 205, the secretary of state can still decide whether or not to mail absentee ballot applications statewide, but he needs approval from the legislature for funding. Applications will be mailed for the election this fall.