On the way to the governorís desk is another Republican-backed bill on elections procedures, this one a rewrite of the law dealing with provisional ballots, a most troublesome problem in Ohio. The state ranks third in the nation in its use of provisional ballots and fourth in the number rejected. In close races, perhaps even a presidential race, thatís an invitation to lawsuits and electoral chaos.
John Kasich should veto the bill. He should then remind lawmakers about his administrationís Common Sense Initiative, or CSI. The goal for the state should be to reduce the number of provisional ballots, cast on Election Day when questions arise about registration, and, when a provisional ballot is necessary, to make casting them as simple as possible for voters.
The bill largely fails the CSI test on both counts. It fails to move forward on online voter registration, easily the most sensible and effective way to reduce confusion about voter registration, thus reducing the number of provisional ballots. And instead of making it easier for voters, the legislation adds needless complications, creating fertile ground for more litigation.
The measure would make progress by putting into law court rulings on provisional ballots, clarifying that voters who show up in the wrong precinct but right polling location through no fault of their own must have their provisional ballots counted. Those who show up in the wrong polling location would not get such consideration.
Whatís troublesome is that voters would have to provide two pieces of additional information ó date of birth and current address ó when casting a provisional ballot, even though voter fraud is almost nonexistent. The bill would make the voter completely responsible for the task, with even the smallest, most insignificant error grounds for rejection. It then reduces the number of days voters have to produce proper identification from 10 to seven.
Imagine the many lawsuits in an election decided on such matters as transposed numbers in a Zip Code. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylorís Common Sense Initiative boasts about responding quickly to business concerns about excessive regulation. Might Ohio voters get the same consideration?