Lawmakers Approve Online Voter Registration, With A Catch
Soon, Ohioans will be allowed to register to vote online instead of just the old paper application. But some lawmakers are still skeptical about the plans.
The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Jon Husted, says being able to register to vote online is a good idea for many reasons.
“It’ll make voting more secure, it’ll make it easier, it’ll save a lot of money. We expect that the taxpayers at the local community level will save millions of dollars. It’s more secure because of the fact that we can do an instantaneous on voters to make sure they’re eligible to vote in Ohio,” said Husted.
After years of pushing for the issue, the House gave the final go-ahead to allow for online voter registration, but there’s a catch. The House added a provision to make sure voters can’t register online until next year - something Husted was against.
“There are absolutely no good reasons why it should be delayed till 2017 from an administrative point of view, that’s a policy decision that they’re making not one based on implementation.”
Husted says the online tool to do this is ready to go right now and he just needs the legal authority to start it up.
The delay in implementing the law irked House Democrats such as Representative Kathleen Clyde of Kent, who’s made elections issues a main priority. Clyde also voiced concerns about the way the online tool will work. To register people need to have a signature on file. Husted’s online platform will use the signature from a driver’s license or a state ID card.
However, Clyde says this hurts what could be as many as 300,000 people who don’t have either of those cards.
“Those happen often to be low-income voters, minority voters, young voters and seniors. So we want to think about how we can improve the system in the future and include those voters and allow their access to online voter registration,” said Clyde.
Clyde wants to take the issue one step further and require automatic voter registration -- which has passed in four states and is under discussion in two dozen others.
“Automatic voter registration would be an opt out system rather than an opt in system. You would be automatically registered to vote when you visit a DMV, or access your veteran’s benefits, or graduate from high school and it is the wave of the future,” Clyde said.
The measure passed overwhelmingly, but Democratic Representative Teresa Fedor of Toledo voted against it, making the claim that Republicans keep passing elections laws that benefit their own party.
Republican Senator Frank LaRose, who sponsored the legislation, has played a role in several elections-related bills that has passed the General Assembly recently. He disputes Fedor’s claims.
“I think it’s an unfortunate line of attack that people like to engage in," said LaRose. "I think that what we should be talking about is that in Ohio it’s easier to vote than most other states we have 28 days of early voting. You can vote by mail, you can stop by the county board of elections and casting your early ballot and of course we have Election Day.”
Husted says another issue he’d like to work on is the ability for voters to request an absentee ballot online instead of needing to mail-in a form. But he and others have said that actually casting ballots online isn’t even close to happening.