The last time Ohio Republicans tried to make voting harder, they ended up having to repeal their own bill. That 2011 measure, HB 194, would’ve cut early voting days by half. State voters forced a referendum to overturn the law, and Ohio Republicans decided to take it off the books themselves rather than place it before voters in 2012. In repealing HB 194, lawmakers left in place a new ban on early voting for the weekend before the election, only to have a court order the state to put those days back.
So that went well, right? Last week the folks at Plunderbund noted that an Ohio lawmaker is now working on a bill to cut early voting days in half and final weekend voting, again. In an August 5 memo seeking co-sponsors, Representative John Becker (R), wrote, “This bill would reduce the length of time for absent voting from 35 days before Election Day to 17 days; limiting early voting to two weeks prior to the election concluding on the Friday before the election.”
It appears that Becker has company.
The Toledo Blade reports that the old repealed HB 194 is making a comeback, only not as a single measure:
A variety of bills this session have been introduced or are in the early stages of seeking co-sponsorship that would, among other things, restrict absentee and early voting hours, require photo identification at the polls, eliminate the February and August special elections typically used for local property tax levies, and permit online voter registration*.
All of these, at least at some point, were part of the debate over House Bill 194, even if they didn’t necessarily make the final law.
As the nice lady from the Ohio League of Women Voters tells the Blade, putting the measures that make voting harder in separate bills “certainly makes it harder to referendum, doesn’t it?”
It is worth remembering that Ohio expanded early voting after polling places wound up with long lines in 2004, a year when George W. Bush won the state. After Barack Obama won Ohio in 2008, Republicans tried to cut the hours. Obama won Ohio again in 2012. Deja news.
*More about the online registration bill, sponsored by a Republican and with bipartisan support, here.