Saturday, October 01, 2011

Guest Post: Updating Ohio's Electoral System

Guest Column from Rep. Barbara Sears on Ohio H.B. 194, the election reform bill. The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, is opposed by various groups, including the Ohio Democratic Party, unions and the liberal organization Progress Ohio. On Thursday, these groups submitted 318,000 signatures to the Secretary of State seeking a referendum on the law. If they meet the minimum number of required valid signatures, the issue will go to voters in November 2012.

Updating Ohio’s Electoral System

The right to vote is an important hallmark of American democracy, yet it is the simplicity of our electoral process that sets us apart from much of the world. Exercising our right to vote in federal, state, and local government is a freedom that we sometimes take for granted, but it is a freedom we must protect nonetheless. Suffrage movements and other spirited struggles throughout our history have improved our democracy while still maintaining the simplistic integrity of our elections. However, there have been attempts in recent years to change our electoral process which threatens the simplicity that has secured our elections for centuries.

The current electoral process in Ohio is outdated and subject to inefficiencies and vulnerable to voter fraud. The Ohio House passed comprehensive election reform legislation, House Bill 194, to fix these problems. Through these necessary adjustments we can ensure the efficacy and integrity of Ohio’s election procedures.

House Bill 194 improves the transparency and simplicity of the way we cast our ballots. It’s designed to modernize the elections process, streamline operations and reduce costs for local boards of elections, verify the accuracy of voter rolls, improve the verification process for valid provisional and absentee ballots, and set statewide standards to absentee voting. Streamlining the voting process will make elections more straightforward and decrease voter confusion, as well as ensure that procedures are uniform from county to county. It is very important to me as your state representative that everyone has an equal opportunity to make their mark on our government.

The legislation also institutes several technological updates to Ohio’s electoral system. For example, it authorizes the development of a top-down voter registration database. This update will identify poll worker error; increase the accuracy of the rolls, and keep times and locations for voting more consistent from place to place. Furthermore, the bill allows voters to change their address online, thereby making it easier for voters to keep their personal information accurate for Election Day.

This package of reforms will restore accountability to Ohio’s voting process. Our right to vote is a liberty that Americans have fought long and hard for, and I want to guarantee that all Ohioans have access to an electoral process that is fair, honest and effective. House Bill 194 will make sure that your voice is clearly heard in our state and local governments.

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