Continuing a piecemeal approach, the Ohio Senate’s latest bill on election reform deals with mailing absentee ballot applications, a promising way to ease crowding at the polls and increase turnout. Unfortunately, state Sen. Bill Coley, a Middletown Republican, wants to restrict statewide mailings to even years and bar local boards from mailing applications on their own.
Voting advocates, such as the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Election Officials, further note that the Coley bill would make statewide mailings contingent on funding from the legislature.
A better approach would be to expand and properly fund the experiment with statewide mailings, started last year by Jon Husted, the secretary of state. Husted will continue the practice in November 2014, once again tapping federal funds. The cost, about $1.6 million, is hardly prohibitive.
Last year, use of absentee ballots increased in counties that had not mailed out applications on their own in previous elections, easing crowding at the polls. If continued, statewide mailings could serve to boost overall turnout.
The statewide approach avoids the problem of individual counties acting on their own, risking lawsuits over disparate treatment of voters. For now, statewide mailings should continue, including for off-year elections, where turnout has been high in recent years due to controversial statewide issues. What’s more, there should be a long-term commitment to provide funding, the legislature avoiding the possibility of irregular mailings, which promise to confuse and frustrate voters.