COLUMBUS – Today, all Democratic members of the Senate Civil Justice Committee expressed strong opposition to Senate Bill 296, which would add additional hurdles for Ohioans who attempt to keep polling locations open on Election Day. The bill has moved quickly through the Senate and will likely pass the Senate this afternoon.
 
“Senate Bill 296 amounts to a poll tax, which will make it more difficult for Ohio citizens to protect their fundamental right to access the ballot box,” said Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati). “As legislators, we should make it easier to vote, because our constituents feel cheated when their voices are not heard. This legislation is an overreaction to a set of bad facts that will harm Ohioans’ access to the ballot box.”
 
Among other provisions, S.B. 296 mandates that anyone seeking a court order to keep polling locations open in emergencies must file a petition in common pleas court, and then post a cash bond. If the person seeking to keep the polls open is indigent, the fee is waived – but the polls can then only be opened for that individual to vote. If a person who is not considered indigent cannot produce the cash bond, the polls will not be kept open for that person.
 
"I believe S.B. 296 is an unnecessary and harmful bill," said Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo). "It tries to find a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. Instead, it creates new problems for our citizens. We should be working to help as many Ohioans as possible cast their ballots, so they can make their voices heard." 
 
Last week, several well-known voters’ rights organizations – including the ACLU, League of Women Voters, Common Cause Ohio, and Ohio Voter Rights Coalition – testified in committee against S.B. 296. You can read their testimonies here (under “Committee Documents – May 4, 2016”).
 
Today, elections experts testified against the bill, stating that it would impose damaging and unnecessary burdens on Ohio voters. You can read their testimonies here (under “Committee Documents – May 11, 2016”).
 
“This bill will only harm Ohio voters,” said Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood). “If an unexpected event – such as a power failure or storm – prevents people from casting a vote through no fault of their own, it should not be their responsibility to pay to keep the polls open.”
 
You can view a full analysis of the bill here.

 
 
 
  
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