Opportunity to reform Election System Lauded

Opportunity to reform Election System lauded

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Sunday, April 12, 2009 Editorial: Sound reforms: Common-sense ideas could make Ohio elections simpler and reduce conflict.

The General Assembly has a golden opportunity to rise above partisan gamesmanship and reform how the state conducts its elections.

The framework for reform is contained in the final report from two elections summits conducted in December and March.

They were led by Lawrence Norden, senior counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner deserves credit for convening the summits and for inviting the widely respected Norden to run the proceedings. She should endorse the report’s main findings and push for their adoption.

The major recommendations, supported by the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials, are:

• Require the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to comply with federal law and automatically update voters’ information when drivers change addresses on their licenses. This would greatly enhance the accuracy of voter-registration lists.

• Make the driver’s license number the sole number on the face of the license.

• Redesign and simplify voter-registration forms to minimize voters’ errors.

• Develop a more transparent statewide voter database that has all the characteristics of a modern database, permitting user-friendly searches. Ensure the security and privacy of the database.

• Simplify provisional ballots, provisional voter-ID procedures and the provisional-ballot envelope.

• Require election audits after major elections.

• Expand the number of in-person, early voting locations and shorten the voting period (currently 35 days) for in-person absentee voting.

The report contains many other worthy recommendations, but adoption of these primary changes would go a long way toward helping Ohio overcome its abysmal — and deserved — reputation for elections conflict and gamesmanship.

Both major parties bear responsibility for Ohio’s tarnished image. Both should step up, endorse this plan and refrain from loading up related legislation with side issues.

The proposed reforms would help ensure that all qualified and properly registered voters have an opportunity to vote in the easiest manner possible and that ineligible persons are prevented from voting.

That’s just what every fair-minded person, regardless of political or ideological leaning, should favor.

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