Ohio Republicans are poised to pass a new round of restrictive voting laws this week. Taken together, the measures could limit access to the ballot in this year’s midterms and the 2016 presidential race, and revive the obscenely long lines at the polls that plagued the Buckeye State a decade ago. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio, and it remains the single most pivotal state in presidential elections. That status is giving an added intensity to the battle over voting rights there. The Ohio House could vote as soon as Wednesday on two GOP-backed bills. One would cut early voting from 35 to 28 or 29 days. More importantly, it would end the so-called “Golden Week” period when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day—a key way to bring new voters into the process.
The other bill would put limits on the state’s successful absentee ballot program, forcing election officials to get approval from lawmakers before mailing out absentee ballots. Both bills are scheduled for hearings Tuesday, and have already passed the Senate.
A third bill scheduled for a Tuesday hearing and already passed by the Senate would make it harder for provisional ballots to be counted—though a full vote on that measure isn’t expected this week.
Republicans say cutting early voting and ending the Golden Week would save money and reduce the chances for fraud—though a thorough investigation by Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, turned up almost no evidence of fraud. And they say the absentee ballot restrictions are needed to create uniformity among counties across the state.