Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday vetoed a bill fast-tracked by lawmakers in his party that would have required a payment, possibly thousands of dollars, if a judge ordered polls to stay open longer on Election Day. The bill would have made Ohio the first state to require money from voters who successfully sue to extend voting hours. The change was championed by Republican lawmakers after judges in Southwest Ohio kept polls open late during the March and November elections. But Democrats, voter advocates and even Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted had said it wasn’t necessary to require a cash bond in those situations. In vetoing the bill, Kasich said he found the requirement to set bond at a minimum of $1 could keep people from raising valid issues about voting problems. “One wonders why these trifling excuses should enable chaos at the polls this fall,” responded Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, who drafted the bill, in a scathing statement. “Without the bill, there could be 88 different sets of voting hours in Ohio’s 88 counties set by state court judges bent on appeasing their political allies to rig the elections. Should this occur, the blame will fall squarely on the Governor.”
GOP lawmakers had hoped to have the proposal in place by the November election, when Ohio, as a quintessential swing state, could attract lawsuits over any number of perceived voting problems.
Last November, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman, a Republican, ordered polls to remain open an additional 90 minutes in the county after an appeal filed by supporters of a marijuana ballot initiative, citing technical glitches that caused some delays on Election Day. During the March 15 primary, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ordered polls to stay open another hour after learning about a serious crash on eastbound I-275, which was closed for several hours after a car plunged into the Ohio River from the Combs-Hehl Bridge.
Democrats and Republicans alike said they thought both judges were wrong to extend voting hours. Dlott’s order in particular was met with outrage by some: She issued the order without a court hearing or suit. Instead, she got a dinnertime call from her clerk’s office. Motorists, the staffer said, were stranded on I-275 and had asked if she could help them have a chance to vote.