Does Ohio lag behind the world with ease of voting?

Published: Nov. 2, 2016 at 7:54 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 16, 2016 at 6:48 PM EST
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The lack of online registration and forcing people to vote on weekdays are some of the hurdles that U.S. citizens face when casting their ballots.

Many of these issues were addressed in a 2014 report released by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Two years after the report's release, Ohio has made efforts to make voting easier while at the same time placing more barricades to ballot access.

Earlier this year, Gov. John Kasich signed a measure that will allow Ohioans to register online to vote. However, the opportunity won't be available until January. Josh Eck, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jon Husted said online registration was possible for this election, the system already exists. However, Eck said the hold up came from the Republican-dominated state legislature.

"We were frustrated," State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) said about the delay in online registration. "There was no good reason people couldn't register online before this election. Voter participation is not a partisan issue."

State Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) authored the bill. The delay, he said, was the result of several House members being concerned about security problems that could result from taking registration online.

"Republicans and Democrats were asking 'Does this [online registration] help or hurt my party?' That shouldn't be a question," Sen. LaRose said. The question, he said, should be how the Ohio legislature should make voting more accessible.

Some legislators thought the state should continue exclusively have voters to register with a physical form.

"I pushed for it to be ready for 2016," Sen. LaRose said. "But the House thought it was not a good idea to start a new process in a presidential election."

City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson says relying on physical forms for registration leads to too many errors. According to Simpson, it is not uncommon for voters to be turned away at the polls for bad registration forms. The issues range from poor handwriting to the forms never getting turned in.

"We had a whole batch of people's ballots that were useless because they registered at places like the BMV or the library that didn't turn their registration," Simpson said.

Between work and transportation issues, simply getting to the polls can prove challenging. Countries like New Zealand, France and Switzerland have a significantly higher voter turnout than the U.S. They offer weekend voting, or declare Election Day a national holiday, when workers have the day off.

In the U.S., there are not a lot of major efforts to give workers a day off to vote, outside of a Senate bill to make Election Day a holiday introduced to committee last year by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). But Ohio does have a 35-day bloc for early voting.

Same-day voting registration also would make voting easier, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia offer it. Ohio had "Golden Week," a period during which people could register and vote on the same day. The week was a reaction to hours-long voting lines in the 2004 election. But the state legislature and Gov. Kasich, nixed it.

Husted said Ohio is one of the easiest states to cast a ballot. The Democratic Party sued to restore same-day voting, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Husted's decision.

In addition to online registration, online voting is being implemented in several other countries. Some data suggests that it is increasing participation.

But Ohio is probably far away from any serious effort to implement it. No legislation is coming down the pipeline, and there is no movement on the state's end, according to Eck. However, the U.S. and the bulk of European nations already have some online voting infrastructure for troops deployed abroad to cast a ballot.

France started offering online voting to citizens abroad in 2012. The effort was a "milestone," The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported, with 55 percent of votes cast online, a two percent increase from their previous election. The report from ministry highlighted that security was "full proof" and there was no evidence of breaches.

"In a perfect world I'm for anything that makes it easy for people to vote. Security would be the big concern," Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, said.

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