The Ohio Senate signed off on election-related bills recently that would eliminate the state’s Golden Week and potentially reduce the number of provisional ballots cast during elections. Both passed on split votes amid criticism from Democratic lawmakers that the proposed law changes would make it more difficult for eligible Ohioans to vote. SB 238, sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley), passed on a vote of 23-10. It would postpone the start of early voting until after the state’s registration period has ended. Under current law, eligible Ohioans can register and cast absentee ballots on the same day for about a week each election cycle. Under LaRose’s bill, absentee voting would start on the day after the registration deadline.
Proponents say local elections officials need more time to verify voters’ eligibility before allowing them to cast ballots. Even with the change, Ohio’s early voting period would be longer than most other states, LaRose said.
Democrats opposed the bill. Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), who hopes to unseat GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted next year, said the bill would reduce ballot access.
“Why would we want to eliminate some of the most secure times during which to cast a ballot, when a voter can walk in, talk to (elections) professionals, register, correct any errors and then vote?” she asked.
Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) attempted to re-refer the bill for further deliberation, saying the legislation was subject to only two hearings, both this week. The motion failed on party lines.