Counting The Days
Editorial from the Akron Beacon Journal
November 25, 2013
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The Ohio Senate, splitting along party lines, approved a bill last week that would shorten the time period for a popular voting option, casting an early ballot in person. While the vote was another unfortunate sign that a bipartisan approach to election reform is lacking, the bill sponsored by state Sen. Frank LaRose, a Copley Township Republican, would leave Ohio a leading state when it comes early voting.

The bill does not address the days and hours for early voting, which became the subject of bitter lawsuits during the 2012 presidential election. Instead, it concerns the “Golden Week,” when voters in Ohio may register and cast a ballot at the same time.

In the past, there has been bipartisan agreement to end the awkward overlap, resulting from early voting starting 35 days before Election Day, while the deadline for voter registration is 30 days before the election. By eliminating the overlap, the Republican-backed bill would shorten the period for early voting to 29 or 28 days, depending on the year.

That still would leave plenty of time, especially because Ohio voters have the option of mailing in absentee ballots without specifying a reason for not voting on Election Day, an absentee ballot application sent to every voter.

Know that many large states lack any early voting, among them, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. (Those states lack no-excuse absentee voting, too.) Virginia, a top battleground state much like Ohio, does not have early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. If the LaRose bill becomes law, Ohio would remain ahead of the average time period for early voting, 22 days.

With other bills in the works that would set the hours and days for early voting, Ohioans should be wary of further cutbacks. It makes sense to preserve early voting on at least two Saturdays and Sundays before Election Day, in even-numbered years. Moving forward, both sides must recognize the need to balance the priorities of large and small counties in setting uniform hours for early voting, avoiding costly litigation sure to result if some are treated differently than others.

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