For Ohioans concerned about strengthening our democracy — which should be all of us — this legislative session has been extremely disappointing. While Secretary of State Jon A. Husted and voter advocates have been urging the passage of cost-saving legislation to improve voter access and the voter registration database, the Ohio General Assembly instead focused on reducing early voting (Senate Bill 238) and making voting more difficult (Senate Bills 205 and 216). Two bills have been introduced to implement online voter registration: one sponsored by a Democratic House member (House Bill 78) and one by a Republican Senator (Senate Bill 175). Online registration is more convenient for potential voters and more efficient for election administrators because it reduces data entry errors based on scrawled signatures and basic human error. This means a more accurate voter database that actually saves money. Husted’s office estimates that online voter registration between 2010 and 2012 would have saved county boards of elections up to $3 million.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 16 states offer online voter registration and another four have passed legislation to create an online system. Ohio already gives registered voters a way to update their registration online. Creating online voter registration for new voters is simply the next step.
So what’s holding things up?
Instead of adopting online registration, the legislature passed a bill requiring that both absentee vote-by-mail applications and the ballot envelopes be “complete” (SB 205). Another bill passed recently makes provisional ballots more likely to be thrown out (SB 216). Voters cast provisional ballots if their names aren’t found on the roster on Election Day.