To the Editor:
Our election laws must make voters feel welcome to participate in their democracy and confident that their votes will be counted. The U.S. Constitution demands it. Unfortunately, some very harmful changes to our elections are coming if our state’s Republican majority has its way.
Several bills being considered at the Statehouse are designed to disenfranchise large numbers of voters. One cuts early voting opportunities from 35 days to 6 days for in-person voting and to only 18 days for mail voting, eliminating crucial time to receive and return a ballot by mail. This drastic step would bring a return to the long Election Day lines and packed polling places of our past. After the smooth elections of 2008 and 2010, this is a giant leap backwards.
Another change will require voters who provide their Social Security number on voting forms to reveal the entire 9-digit number instead of the last 4 digits only. There is no benefit to this requirement and it is a big violation of privacy in an age where identity theft poses a bigger and bigger risk to Americans.
Other changes would prohibit the counting of votes even where a voter’s intent is clear, and punish voters when a poll worker misdirects a voter to the wrong table within a voting location. Had these rules been in place in 2008, over 12,000 votes would have been thrown out. Thousands of ballots get thrown out each election simply because of poll worker error. Mistakes happen even with the best-trained workers and best intentions. When this happens, election officials have a duty to make sure voters don’t lose their rights over it.
These bills solve no problems, but instead are designed to allow partisan manipulation of the rules. Candidates should win their elections based on their ideas and not by rigging the rules of the game. Speaker Batchelder recently said the Republican bill sponsors will work out a final bill in a “quiet room” to avoid the sunshine of a conference committee. I will be knocking on the door of that room trying to make sure the people’s voice is heard.
State Representative Teresa Fedor
Ohio House District 47