Plenty Of Time To Vote
Editorial from the Columbus Dispatch
November 25, 2013
 
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Ohio lawmakers face a number of contentious proposals for changing voting rules, but shortening Ohio's long early-voting period shouldn't be controversial.

Senate Bill 238, sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose and approved by the Senate on Wednesday, would reduce the window for early voting to 28 or 29 days (the day after voter registration ends), from 35.

It's a reasonable response to the concerns of the people who have to make elections work. The Ohio Association of Election Officials recommended earlier this year that early voting start later, to eliminate the so-called "golden week" — the six days when the voter-registration period overlaps with early voting, meaning people can register to vote and immediately cast a ballot.

The issue is clear-cut: Allowing people to register and vote on the same day doesn't give election officials enough time to verify that the registration is accurate before counting the vote.

While there is no indication that the overlap has led to fraudulent voting, it does create the possibility and it makes administering elections more difficult. Just as important, shortening the early-voting period by six days would harm no one.

Even at "only" 28 days, Ohio would have one of the nation's longest early-voting periods. Those who insist that any trimming amounts to voter suppression are engaging in histrionics. Only a few years ago, Ohioans had a single day in which to cast a vote.

Now, every Ohioan also has the option of voting absentee, by mail.

The fierce political fight over S.B. 238 is, unfortunately, typical of the partisan warfare that has taken over any legislative discussion of voting law in Ohio. Both Republicans and Democrats have in the past supported a shorter early-voting period, but in the current climate of excess, some Democrats are characterizing it voter suppression of the worst sort.

Some Republicans, meanwhile, continue to tout other voting changes that actually would make it needlessly difficult to exercise this fundamental right. Some still are pushing for a bill to strictly limit the types of identification voters can present at the polls. They cite a need to curtail fraudulent voting, despite the fact that it remains virtually nonexistent, and despite the fact that similar measures in other states have been ruled unconstitutional.

Ohio would be much better served if both sides would focus on maintaining the easiest access to voting that reasonably can be provided, along with the most-efficient administration of elections.

Lawmakers have an excellent guide in these matters: Secretary of State Jon Husted is a Republican, but he has toed a consistently pragmatic line in trying to persuade the legislature to come to a reasonable consensus on voting issues. He favors eliminating the register-and-vote "golden week" and has called a photo-ID requirement an unnecessary invitation to challenge. He also has pushed for a law allowing online registration, but the idea remains blocked by those who illogically call it a threat to the integrity of the rolls.

Above all, Husted knows that no voting rules will be widely accepted unless they're the product of compromise and consensus by reasonable Democrats and Republicans.

So far, politicians on both sides have shown themselves to be more interested in the next political battle than in ensuring fair voting rules.

 
 
 
  
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