Local volunteers have joined the statewide effort to repeal House Bill 194, a would-be law that opponents say smacks of voter suppression. Volunteers across Ohio hope to collect more than 231,000 signatures and file them with the Ohio Secretary of State by Sept. 29 — one day before the bill is supposed to go into effect.
An upstart citizens group, Stand Up For Ohio — Ross County Movement Builders, has amassed nearly two-thirds of its goal of 1,122 signatures in Ross County, coordinator Portia Boulger said. The larger goal, Boulger said, is to put HB 194 on hold and place it on the ballot in November 2012 as a statewide referendum.
House Bill 194, passed in June by the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly, is, according to Republicans, a package of election law reforms that will ensure consistency in voting practices across the state. Democrats, however, have portrayed the bill as a partisan package designed to suppress the early absentee and in-person voting that gave Democrats an edge in 2008.
Among the most controversial parts of the bill:
» A shorter period of time for mail-in absentee voting. The window would shrink from 35 days to 21.
» A limit on the number of days people can vote early at their boards of elections, down to 14 days from 35.
» Voting on three of the busiest days for in-person voting from 2008 — Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the election — would be eliminated.
» Poll workers at polling places with multiple precincts may direct people who show up to the wrong table to the right one but would not be required to do so.
» Absentee ballots would be mailed only upon request from voters, not as a general practice, as is the case in some larger counties.
Opponents of HB 194 fear the legislation will hurt voter turnout, bring back long lines on Election Day and disenfranchise elderly, minority, working-class and student voters.
Boulger and two other local volunteers visited Hopeton Terrace on Thursday and spoke to a group of senior citizens about what changes HB 194 would bring. The retirement community off Western Avenue is home to limited-income residents 65 and older.