Several Democratic candidates and officeholders gathered in front of the Hamilton County Board of Election Tuesday morning to decry House Bill 194, a Republican bill reforming Ohio election law that Democrats say is nothing more than “voter supression.”
The Democrats said they are part of a statewide push to gather about 232,000 valid voter signatures to place a referendum on the Nov. 2012 ballot. If they succeed by Sept. 29, the law – scheduled to go into effect Sept. 30 – would be put on hold for this election and next year’s presidential election, when Ohio voters would decide whether or not they want to keep the law, which significantly shortens the period of early voting and tells inside poll workers that they are not required to direct voters to the right tables in multi-recinct polling places, among other things.
“This is just a very cynical effort to limit voting in Ohio,” said Don Mooney, a Democratic lawyer who is helping cooredinate the petition drive in southwest Ohio.
Mooney was joined by State Sen. Eric Kearney, State Rep. Denise Driehaus, Cincinnati council member Wendell Young, Democratic city council candidate P.G. Sittenfeld and Pastor Rousseau O’Neal at the press conference.
Republicans like State Rep. Louis Blessing, R-Colerain Township, and a sponsor of the bill, have said the bill has nothing to do with suppressing the vote, but is simply an attempt to make election practices uniform in all of Ohio’s 88 counties.
One of the provisions of House Bill 194 would prevent counties from mailing absentee ballot applications to voters along with the notices they send to them informing them of their polling places. Hamilton County and several other large urban counties do this; and Republicans in the legislature argued that if smaller counties can not afford to provide that service, no county should be allowed to do it.
But the board of elections in Hamilton County and several other counties have had tie votes along partisan lines on sending the absentee ballot applications out before the law goes into effect Sept. 30. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has yet to break the tie vote, but put out a directive to all 88 boards Monday banning counties from sending out the applications.