During the 2004 presidential election, Ohio became famous for its dysfunctional election system. Lines snaked around city blocks in many areas, causing people to wait for hours to cast their vote or simply give up and leave. In response, the Republican legislature passed sweeping election reform in 2005 that included expanded early voting hours and no-fault absentee voting, and we haven’t seen dysfunction like 2004 since then. Until now. On November 20, the Ohio Senate passed SB 238, a bill that slammed the doors on the first week of early voting in Ohio.
The bill moved so quickly – one week from introduction to passage on the Senate floor – that meaningful dialogue about sensible reform or even discussion of the purpose of the bill was all but impossible. I searched in vain for any testimony submitted that would justify reducing early voting to this degree, compelling me to ask: Why cut something that works? Why cut something that’s popular with voters?
Since it was introduced in 2005, early voting has gained popularity in every election. By 2012, 41 percent of voters took advantage of it in Cuyahoga County. In Ashland and Lake Counties, it was 35 percent. The popularity of early voting is not unique to those counties; it is a statewide phenomenon.