Doing his part in the GOP’s voter suppression campaign, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed a sweeping elections reform bill into law on July 1. Along with allowing poll workers to refuse telling voters where they can vote, the new law shortens the state’s early voting period, bans in-person early voting on Sundays, and prohibits boards of election from mailing absentee ballot requests to voters. These regressive restrictions mean that four in 10 voters in Columbus, Ohio alone will have to find a new the time, place, or way to cast their ballots. In fact, according to the Columbus Dispatch, the ballots that nearly a quarter million Columbus voters cast in 2008 would be banned under the new law:
234,000. That’s the number of Franklin County voters who cast ballots during the 2008 presidential election on dates, at times or in locations that would be shut down if the GOP election changes – which have been signed into law but are the target of a referendum campaign – are implemented:
• Almost 182,000 voters mailed in completed ballots during the first two weeks of a 35-day early-voting period. Early voting by mail would be cut to 21 days under the Republican plan.
• Nearly 52,000 people cast ballots at Veterans Memorial, which was used for in-person early voting in 2008 because it offered more space, easier access and free parking. The new law would ban early voting by machine anywhere except at county elections offices.
• The legislation also would forbid counties from mailing unsolicited absentee-ballot applications to voters. Franklin County sent applications to all registered voters, totaling nearly 1.3 million in 2008 and 2010 combined. About 380,000 voters cast ballots by mail in the two elections.
These restrictions attack much of the reform pushed in Ohio after 2004, when the state came under fire for voting methods that may have affected the outcomes of the Bush-Kerry election. It is a history lesson that is not lost on Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge (D). “We all remember 2004,” Fudge told ThinkProgress. “The only reason to limit these requirements is to limit voting, and to strip targeted populations of their right to vote. Anyone who values our democracy can understand why it is necessary to make voting easier for citizens, not more difficult.” Fudge is currently heading the House’s push to secure a Department of Justice review of the regressive voter ID laws being pushed across the country.
Even Ohio Board of Elections Chairman Doug Preisse — who is also chairman of the Franklin County GOP — also expressed concern about the law’s ill-effects. “I could quibble with a few aspects because I’m looking at it from the challenge of running elections in a big county,” he said. “Did they get it right this time? I’m not sure.”
Former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is leading the Fair Elections Ohio coalition of lawmakers, labor, church, and voting-rights groups in an effort to overturn parts of this law through ballot appeal.