The GOP-controlled Ohio House passed along party lines on Wednesday two bills that make changes to the mailing of absentee ballot applications and cut six days from Ohio’s 35-day early, in-person voting period. The Senate approved House-made changes to the bills before sending them to Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to sign them into law. Senate Bill 238 would eliminate six early voting days referred to as “golden week,” when people can both register to vote and cast an in-person absentee ballot. The Ohio Association of Election Officials recommended the five-day period be scrapped to create a clean break between when voters can register and when they can cast ballots. The bill passed in a 58-39 vote in the House and the Senate passed the bill along party lines, 23-10, on Nov. 20, 2013.
Democrats and voter rights advocates said reducing early voting days would disenfranchise voters and lead to longer lines at the polls. They also questioned the urgency and motive behind passing the bills.
Senate Bill 205 would prohibit individual county boards of election from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. The bill allows the Ohio Secretary of State to send them out, statewide, if lawmakers appropriate money to pay for it. Republicans said voters are not treated equally because some county boards of election choose to send out applications and pay for return postage on absentee ballots and ballot applications.