The debate over unsolicited absentee voter applications first heated up in the fall of 2011. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wanted to send these forms to every voter in his county, which gives those individuals a chance to request an absentee ballot. Secretary of State Jon Husted disagreed with FitzGerald because of the lack of uniformity it would bring among the other counties. As part of a compromise, FitzGerald agreed to hold off on sending out the applications and instead, Husted’s office mailed them to voters throughout the entire state for 2012’s presidential election. Now Republican Senator Bill Coley, of southwest Ohio, wants to lock down the rules on these applications in state law. His proposed bill says the Secretary of State can mail unsolicited applications for absentee voter ballots, but only on an even-numbered year and only if the General Assembly provides the money.
According to Coley, this is the best way to make sure every Ohio community gets the same amount of voter access. “You know if you’re from small town Ohio or big city Ohio or suburbia Ohio,” Coley said, “You’re gonna know that you’re voting under the same rules that everyone else is voting under.”
Senator Nina Turner, from Cleveland, opposes the bill and says the plan would end up limiting access for voters. The Democratic candidate for Secretary of State says the attempt for all out uniformity takes authority away from local elections officials.
“When people hear uniformity it sounds good—but unconditional uniformity is absolutely not right,” Turner said, “What Senator Coley is doing in this bill is absolutely not right and I would hope that all Ohioans would see through this—this is nothing more than a veiled attempt to stop certain voters from being able to have the opportunity to vote.”