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New Bill Makes It Harder To Keep Polling Places Open Later On Election Day

Andy Chow
Ohio House votes on bill to make it harder to extend hours on Voting Day

It might be harder to keep polling places open late on Election Day if Gov. John Kasich signs a bill that changes the way that can be done.

Election Day 2015. A federal judge ordered polling places in four Cincinnati area counties to stay open late because of heavy traffic. That decision was widely criticized by majority Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate. So they introduced and passed a bill, pretty much along party lines, that would set new rules for the process that can be used to keep polling places open. Republican Representative Robert McColley says, under this plan, a citizen who wants to keep the polling place open past 7:30 closing time must go to court and pay some money.

“Before any order can be granted, there must be a bond posted with the clerk of courts and that bond must generally cover the cost of any extension that might be granted.”

Democrats, such as Representative Alicia Reece, lambasted the plan for requiring voters to post a cash bond. She says that amounts to a poll tax. She says voters already pay the salaries and costs associated with elections. Reece tells a story about a recent situation in her area where voters didn’t get to cast ballots during the day because of equipment failures.

“Many had left and there was a court order to keep the polls open. It was filed by the citizens so that people could come back at no fault to them because the computers people had paid for didn’t work.”

Democrat Kathleen Clyde says it’s not only equipment failure that can cause emergencies on Election Day where voters might not be able to cast ballots.

“These emergencies could include weather emergencies, polling places that flood or need to be moved at the last minute, roads that are flooded or icy, delaying delivery of voting equipment to polling places, power going out, polling places running out of ballots.”

Those are just some of the reasons Clyde says voters should be able to file, without posting a bond, to keep polls open. But Republican Representative Lou Terhar says voters in Ohio have many options.

“In our county and our state, we don’t have an Election Day, we have an Election Month.”

Terhar notes voters can take advantage of early in person or mail in voting and can vote on weekends prior to Election Day.  As far as the claim that low income Ohioans might be discriminated against with this bill, Terhar says that’s untrue.

“This bill says, if you are poor, you do it with $1. Now if you go in there and you really want to vote and you roll in to the judge, if you can’t part with a dollar, you probably couldn’t pay to get to the poll.”

Sen. Bill Seitz, the sponsor of the bill, said he hopes it will cut down on the number of what he calls frivolous lawsuits which he says unfairly inconvenience poll workers. The bill passed along party lines with Republicans voting for it, Democrats voting against. It. The legislation now goes to Gov. Kasich.

Contact Jo Ingles at