Friday, February 21, 2014

Twin Bills Set for Governor's Signature Today Would Limit Voting Rights

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2:27 PM

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A pair of bills passed by the Statehouse this week may get the governor's John Hancock as early as today. The result? Approval from Gov. John Kasich would usher in a number of restrictive new policies on early voting and absentee ballot access for future elections. In reviewing the legislation, the bills represent another clear notch in state efforts to restrict likely Democratic voters from the polls.

“He will sign them both, possibly later today,” spokesman Rob Nichols told msnbc this morning.

The bills accomplish several things:

- Cutting out six days from the early voting period
- Eliminating days during which same-day registration and voting are possible
- Restricting absentee ballot availability

Here's the quick take from reporter Zachary Roth, who sums up the bills' immediate and wide-ranging impacts:

The bills’ impact on turnout, especially among minorities, could be significant. In 2012, 59,000 Ohioans voted during the Golden Week (ed. note: that's the six-day period that SB 238 will be cut) that’s being eliminated. Studies show blacks are far likelier than whites to use early voting and same-day registration.

And 1.3 million Ohioans cast absentee ballots, after Secretary of State Jon Husted mailed them to every registered voter. Under the new bill, he’d be barred from doing that without approval from lawmakers. Nor could counties mail absentee ballots on their own, as many urban counties have done in the past.

The Ohio Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director, Brian Hester, released a fairly predictable but nonetheless significant message in the wake of the bills' Statehouse passage: “After the 2004 elections, there was a bipartisan agreement that Ohio’s election laws needed reform. Since then, Republicans have worked nonstop to roll back those reforms to prevent people who don’t support Republicans from voting. As Secretary of State, Jon Husted took an oath to protect Ohio voter’s right to vote, but has clearly failed to lead. Instead, Husted yet again chose to be a lapdog for his own party.”

Similarly: “In 2014, I never imagined that I would be in a statehouse trying to fight for the rights to vote,” State Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat, said.

The fundamental criticisms of bills like this, which crop up from time to time in moderate-to-red states typically, is that restricting access to voter registration and/or the voting booth makes it that much more inconvenient to vote. The people most inconvenienced by additional hardships overwhelmingly tend to vote for Democratic candidates. For a Republican-run legislature locked in by proven gerrymandering, that's no good.

For those of you following the Kasich tour, he'll be in Medina on Monday to give his State of the State.

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