A Senate bill was passed that would make it more difficult for citizens to petition a court to keep polling places open after hours on Election Day in Ohio. People seeking to keep the polls open after hours for emergency reasons would have to pay a cash bond to be determined by a judge. The legislation, Senate bill 296, was sponsored by Cincinnati Republican Sen. Bill Seitz and was passed along a purely party-line vote in both the House and Senate. It will go to the Governor’s desk to be either signed or vetoed. Regarding his legislation, Seitz stated “most courts to consider the question (of keeping polls open longer) have held that the courts have no power to extend Election Day voting hours because the legislature, and not the courts, set the voting hours. Sadly, in both the November 2015 and March 2016 elections, rogue courts in Hamilton County issued orders extending polling hours. These orders cost Hamilton County taxpayers $57,000, and forced the inside poll workers to stay around for an extra 60 to 90 minutes after already working a 14-hour day.”
The Hamilton County Board of Elections was ordered to keep the polls open until 9 p.m. because of a problem with new voting technology in November 2015, and because of a large traffic accident that affected the region in March 2016.
Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta voted yes on the bill, saying, “We have really tried to keep a happy medium in Ohio for voting access between having only one day, like some states do, and unlimited times and days. It’s a compromise between universal convenience versus being respectful of those that do this job, and the cost that counties incur. New York State only has one day of voting, and that State is controlled by Democrats. In Ohio, we have at least a month of early voting, absentee voting, or you can just go into the Board of Elections to vote.”
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