Early Voting Legislation Would Bring Relief To County Elections Boards
Column by Sen. Frank LaRose in the Cleveland Plain Dealer
December 03, 2013
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Active involvement in government by thoughtfully participating in elections is not only a fundamental right, but our duty as citizens. Preserving that right for the current and future generations is among our most solemn obligations as public servants. We need to do all we can to encourage our fellow Ohioans to be involved and engaged by assuring an accessible and accurate electoral process. One of the ways we can most effectively do that is by administering fair and efficient elections and making certain that everyone has confidence in the integrity of our electoral process.

In recent years, many Ohioans have taken advantage of early voting, an easy way to cast a ballot on your own schedule in the days leading up to an election. This process is not only convenient for voters, but also helps to reduce lines at the polls on Election Day. However, several years ago when the state established early voting, they inadvertently made the voting days overlap the constitutionally mandated voter registration period.

Our bipartisan boards of elections across the state, which are made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, have expressed for years how this oversight has caused an administrative nightmare during the overlap period. During that week, people are still coming into their boards of elections attempting to register to vote, or change their existing registration, while the boards are simultaneously accommodating early voters.

Essentially, the oversight has doubled the workload at our county boards of elections during their busiest time of the year.

The problem gets worse, however. With people both registering to vote and voting at the same time, there is no time for elections officials to verify voter registrations as they normally do.

In the past, both Democrat and Republican Secretaries of State have called for this problem to be corrected by reducing the number of early voting days to ensure they no longer conflict with the constitutionally mandated voter registration period. In fact, both Democrat and Republican legislators have attempted to do just that through legislation over the course of the past few years.

With the passage of Senate Bill 238, Ohio remains a national leader in voter convenience. Ohio will continue allowing our voters to cast early ballots for a month prior to election day, more than twice the national average. This is something of which we should be proud. This common sense bill, which cleared the Senate last month, fixes the problem which elections officials have been asking us to address for years while maintaining the most expansive number of early voting days in the region. In doing this, we have given our boards of elections the proper amount of time to update the voter rolls and maintain an efficient electoral system.

This reasonable plan has, over the years, enjoyed strong bipartisan support and passed last week with the support of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, which is made up of members of both parties. Ohioans can rest assured that we are doing all we can to keep our elections fair, accurate, and accessible to all so every Ohioan can make their voice heard.

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