Critics: Voter Data-Sharing Bill Misses Opportunity for Change
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The state’s top election official sees a bill aimed at keeping Ohio’s voter registration database up-to-date as a missed opportunity to also let residents register to vote online, his spokesman said.
The measure passed the Republican-led House on a 60-33 vote Wednesday. It now goes to the governor, who is likely to sign it.
The bill would require state agencies to share data with the secretary of state to help maintain Ohio’s voter records. For instance, the state’s health director would have to file monthly reports concerning voters who have died so the deceased could be removed promptly from the voter rolls in the perennial battleground state. It also reduces the minimum number of electronic voting machines a county must have by changing the formula used to calculate it.
Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, already has the authority to do what’s included in the bill, said his spokesman, Matt McClellan.
“What it should do is authorize online voter registration, which would make it easier to vote, harder to cheat and save the taxpayers millions of dollars,” McClellan said in an email. “It does no harm, but it is a missed opportunity.”
Wednesday is the last day the House expects to be in session this year. Senators already have wrapped up their work.
Online registration was part of a contentious election bill in 2011 but was later repealed.
New proposals to allow people to sign up online have been introduced in the House and Senate. Currently, voters can update their addresses over the Internet under changes Husted made last year.
House passage of the voter database measure would send it to the governor. The Senate cleared the Republican-sponsored measure in late October.
Minority Democrats objected to certain provisions of the bill during a Tuesday committee meeting, and unsuccessfully tried to amend it. Among their concerns were fears that the formula change could result in counties not having enough machines for voters, along with voters getting accidentally purged from the rolls.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Kent Democrat, said lawmakers must strike the right balance between the accuracy of the voter database and protecting voter rights. “This bill unfortunately fails to do that,” she said.
Rep. Andy Brenner defended the bill, saying that it eliminates bad records from the state’s database. Plus, he said, the House committee that reviewed the proposal didn’t hear from anyone who was disenfranchised after wrongly being tossed from the registration database.
The proposal has the backing of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, a bipartisan group representing county elections board members and directors. Without the formula change, the group says about a dozen counties would have to buy extra voting equipment but have no need or desire to do so.