A national author who has compared voting opportunities and limitations in different states throughout the nation says Ohio has room for improvement.
New York author Ari Berman has written books and columns about how states are complying with the federal Voting Rights Act. He says long lines at polling places, like those seen in Arizona recently, are a result of weakened federal and state laws.
When it comes to Ohio, the lines to vote are not as long as they were back in 2004. But Berman says there are still many things the state should do to make voting easier and more accessible for everyone.
“Ohio definitely has some good laws. I think it’s great that Ohio has early voting and New York, where I live, doesn’t have early voting. But Ohio doesn’t have online voter registration, for example. Thirty states have that. Ohio doesn’t have same day registration, which a number of states have which increase voter turnout. So there are things Ohio doesn’t have that they could have to make the experience work better.”
Berman says one thing Ohio does have is big fights over voting laws and how to implement them. And he says Ohio is unusually partisan and contentious.
“There are so many lawsuits. Every election cycle. There seems to not be a consensus in this state over protecting everyone’s right to vote.”
He says he’s concerned that Ohio has purged 2 million people from the voting rolls recently and adds that rate is higher than other states.
Why the purge?
Josh Eck with Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office says he doesn’t think that’s true but he says there is a good reason why many voters were removed from the voter rolls.
“When Secretary Husted took office, the voter rolls were extremely bloated and regular maintenance that is required by federal law had not been done. So we had to pull 500,000, almost 500,000 deceased voters off the rolls; we had to eliminate more than a million duplicate registrations.”
Ohio had same-day registration and voting until recently when the Legislature passed a bill that Gov. John Kasich signed into law that eliminated that so-called Golden Week. Husted is not fighting to get that restored. But Eck says his boss would like to have online voter registration.
“Online voter registration is more cost effective, is easier for voters, is far more secure than the paper method. It takes out the opportunity for human error in the process. So it is a much more efficient way of getting people registered to vote in Ohio. The secretary has been a long supporter of it. And we are hoping that the legislature will give us approval in time for the presidential election.”
Eck says Husted's goal is to make it easy to vote in Ohio and it’s hard to cheat.