Ohio might have new voting laws in place before the November presidential election after all. Senate Republicans are working on a plan that would repeal last year’s controversial election overhaul package and replace it with a more narrow set of reforms that could take effect before the Nov. 6 election. The latest changes would incorporate some ideas from the GOP’s previous attempt at reform – House Bill 194 – and prior legislative efforts that ultimately failed. Democrats say the sudden push for new election laws is nothing more than a political ploy to tilt the presidential election in Republicans’ favor. But Republicans insist their only interest is to improve election day operations.
Regardless of motive, the potential for voter confusion is high, because lawmakers have been tinkering with election laws since the beginning of last year. If they pass new legislation before the fall election, voters will be casting ballots under different rules than the March 6 primary.
The latest plan has raised concerns among voting rights advocates already suspicious of GOP lawmakers’ attempts at election-law reform. “There is no good reason for unsettling our election system, confusing poll workers, and making life more difficult for voters,” Daniel Tokaji, an election law expert at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, said.
Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said late last month that he wants HB 194 repealed as soon as possible to avoid voter confusion. At the time, Husted said he wanted to wait until after the presidential election to make any further changes to election laws. But he softened his stance on Friday.