For a brief and glorious moment, Ohio was going to have online voter registration. A mere 12 days after online voter registration was born, the Ohio legislature passed HB 224, a bill that amended parts of an election reform bill (HB 194) that gave online voter registration its short life. We’ll get to that in a minute.
First, let’s just say that the original election reform bill – HB 194 – was not entirely beneficial to voters. It shortens the early voting period from 35 days to 17 days, ends all Sunday voting hours, and stops counties from automatically sending out absentee ballot applications (a common practice in larger, urban counties). It also eliminates a requirement for poll workers to direct voters to their correct precinct if they arrive at the wrong location. That’s right: if you show up at the wrong polling place, poll workers now don’t have to tell you where your proper polling place is.
Before this “reform,” poll workers were required to inform and direct voters to their correct polling place. In a place like the Ohio Union on the campus of Ohio State University where voters from many precincts cast their ballots in different parts of the building, poll workers could tell a wayward voter, “actually, your polling place is across the hall.” This is known as the “right church, wrong pew” issue.
Why does your “pew” matter? Because voters who aren’t on the rolls at a polling place are given provisional ballots, and provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct are not counted. Instead of fixing the problem – say, allowing votes cast by properly registered voters who were in the wrong spot to count for races that aren’t precinct-specific, like for President or Governor – the new law will make it worse by allowing poll workers to ignore lost voters.
Ohio Representative Alicia Reece noted: “Some of my constituents cast their ballot at the right polling location but in the wrong precinct due to the error of a poll worker. They showed up to the right building, but they were misdirected. Others showed up to the wrong place and were not told to go to the correct building which might have been just a mile down the road.”
Full Article: Ohio’s Election “Reform” « Rock the Vote Blog.