Setting the stage for an expected campaign for Ohio secretary of state, state Sen. Nina Turner today proposed an election reform package that she said will protect and expand early voting and eliminate long lines at polling places. The Cleveland Democrat was critical of Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, accusing him in the 2012 election of "spending your tax dollars to hire lawyers to pursue frivolous lawsuits while shutting down chances to vote."
Setting the stage for an expected campaign for Ohio secretary of state, state Sen. Nina Turner today proposed an election reform package that she said will protect and expand early voting and eliminate long lines at polling places.
The Cleveland Democrat was critical of Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, accusing him in the 2012 election of “spending your tax dollars to hire lawyers to pursue frivolous lawsuits while shutting down chances to vote.”
Although she has begun raising money for a potential 2014 challenge against Husted, Turner said at a Statehouse press conference that introducing her “Voter Protection Act” is unrelated to her possible candidacy.
“I have not made any decision about running for secretary of state,” she said. “This bill has nothing to do with that.”
Husted later responded by saying that a number of Turner’s ideas are “things I have done or proposed.”
Turner criticized Husted for mounting unsuccessful court challenges to early voting in the three days before last the last Nov. 6 election and for long lines of voters that developed, particularly in Cuyahoga and Franklin counties, at polling places before Election Day.
“Last year’s elections were plagued by lots of confusion,” she said. “Ohio in 2012, like 2004, was once again the epicenter of election controversy.”
She proposed establishing maximum precinct sizes and minimum staffing levels at precinct locations to prevent poll workers and voting booths from being overwhelmed in early voting. She also said that early voting should be kept at 35 days before the election, including the final three days, and the state should set “default hours” to expand voting opportunities in all counties. Local boards could alter the default hours if three of four members agreed and as long as alternative hours still provide for evening and weekend voting.
Turner acknowledged that these measures would cost county boards of election more money and said the state has a responsibility to help them cover the additional expense.
Along with continuing to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters — as Husted did in 2012 — Turner proposed an online system to permit voters to request absentee ballots, a convenience Husted has attempted to get approved by lawmakers.
She also said that voters who cast provisional ballots should be presumed to be acting in good faith and that ballots cast in the wrong precinct should be counted unless a voter knowingly voted in the incorrect precinct.
Husted said that he had advocated an online voter-registration system included in a Senate-passed bill that Turner voted against while a member of the Ohio House. Husted noted that in the 2012 election cycle he created an online system used by about 106,000 voters to update their addresses.
Husted, who established uniform voting hours for all 88 counties in the 35 days before the November election, said Turner’s proposal to let each county board establish its own early voting hours would create “an unequal playing field” and be unfair to some voters.
“There’s no reason a Mary Smith who lives in Franklin County should have less of an opportunity to vote than a Mary Smith who lives in Delaware County,” Husted said.
Contending that “early voting by the numbers went great in Ohio because we had a record number of voters cast an early ballot” in 2012, Husted said early voting lines are unavoidable when partisan turnout efforts result in busloads of voters being dumped off and overwhelming poll workers.
Husted noted that 1.86 million absentee ballots were cast in 2012 — 1.26 million by mail and 600,000 in person — and that 83.5 percent of the 208,087 provisional ballots cast were counted, more than the 80 percent in 2008.