As Voter Registration Month Begins in Ohio, Absentees Express Concerns

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September 7, 2010

By Tyler Millhouse

COLUMBUS, Ohio: Joining with secretaries of state across the nation, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D) declared September National Voter Registration Month.[1] The National Association of Secretaries of State made the declaration as part of a broader effort to make voters more aware of registration requirements and levy state resources to assist in the registration process.[2]

Through her work with local election officials, Brunner is promoting early voting as a means of streamlining the voting process. In 2008, the state launched its Avoid the Line website which allows voters to complete and print the necessary forms for voter registration and absentee voting. Ohio has a large percentage of absentee voters with 30% of the state’s voters voting early in 2008.[1]

However, some voters are less than satisfied with Ohio’s absentee process. Several Ohio counties plan to mail absentee voter applications to all voters. In addition, several of these counties will offer postage-paid return services for absentee applications, including Columbus’ Franklin county. Some county governments, however, have decided not to offer these services, citing a lack of funds.[3]

In a federal complaint against Brunner, plaintiffs from four Ohio counties are seeking an injunction against the state. They contend that counties should not be permitted to mail applications or pay postage unless the state mandates these services for all Ohio counties. Arguing from 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, the lawsuit claims that current policy allows an “unequal system of voting by absent voter's ballot that deprives Ohio electors of the right to participate in elections on an equal basis.”[4]

Given that many absentee voters reside in heavily Democratic urban counties, like Franklin and Cuyahoga, the Ohio Democratic Party sees the complaint as a Republican move to “confuse” the voting process. While the plaintiffs in the complaint are registered Republicans, the state GOP claimed no involvement in the case, but has expressed support for its general principles.[3]

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