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New Bill Would Eliminate Early Voting Weekend Before Election

Friday, August 23, 2013 at 4:33 PM

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Voters lined up outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections the weekend before election day in November 2012.

In 2008, 105,000 Ohioans voted on the Saturday, Sunday or Monday before the general election. Numbers are not available for November of 2012, but groups watching polls reported long lines in many polling places throughout the state on that weekend. But now, as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, there’s a bill in the Ohio legislature that would close down voting on those three days before a general election.

Republican State Representative John Becker says his bill would allow early in person voting in Ohio during the two weeks before future November elections, but he says it would shut it down on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day.  He says this would help elections workers better prepare for the big voting day.

“The people I’m talking to at the board of elections,” he says, “you know they are looking for stability and time to be allocate to do their jobs to get the job done right.”

Becker says he doesn’t mean to imply that elections workers weren’t able to get their job done correctly.  “I’m not saying they think there was voter fraud, errors or inaccuracies.  But it creates chaos in their office to have to jump through these hoops.”

When reporter Jo Ingles presses Becker to elaborate on the chaos he’s referring to, Becker says he wants to ensure the workers have enough time to fully prepare.

“It’s a matter of scrambling to get the ballots out to the precincts,” he says.  “There’s just a lot of work the board of elections has to do the weekend before the election.  And when you are having early voting the weekend of the election, it creates scheduling issues for the board to get done what they need to get done, especially when it wasn’t planned.”

Back in 2008, early voting on those days was planned.  But by 2012, lawmakers had changed voting laws to initially take that weekend away.  About a month before that Election Day, a federal court ruled the state must offer the early voting on the weekend before the election.  Becker says the federal courts should not be telling Ohio how to run its elections.

But Peg Rosenfield with the Ohio League of Women Voters says the bill could make it harder for people to get to the polls.  “I can’t imagine why they are introducing a bill that would make it less convenient for voting.” she says.  “That last weekend is enormously important for people to vote over the weekend so they don’t have to miss work to vote on Tuesday.  And I just can’t understand what the thinking is to make voting less accessible.”

Rosenfield says the league opposes Becker’s bill.  She doesn’t think there’s a will in the state legislature to adopt it. 

Becker’s proposals don’t stop here.  He has another related bill that would require the early in person voting that does happen to take place on weekdays during business hours.

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Government/Politics, Elections

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