week, Republicans are moving forward with a partial repeal of HB 194, a bill that was blasted
by voting rights groups for eliminating opportunities to vote early and disallowing pollworkers to guide voters to the correct precinct. The bill was
also criticized by Democrats for curtailing voting rights in a way that made it
harder for mostly Democratic constituents to vote.
The good news first: Most of HB 194
is being repealed. It’s good to see Republicans follow the advice of Ohio
Secretary of State Jon Husted, a moderate Republican who called or the repeal
of HB 194 earlier this year.The bad news: Some new limits on
voting rights are going to remain in place, and the entire repeal process, which involves the passing of SB 295, might
While it’s good to see HB 194
repealed, it’s not the only voting law Republicans enacted last year. The Ohio
legislature also passed HB 224, which prohibited voting the Saturday, Sunday
and Monday before election day.For Democrats, this poses a bit of
Democrats are happy to see most of the restrictions on voting
repealed, but they want to see all of the restrictions repealed. If SB 295
passes, Democrats worry that the rest of the restrictions won’t be repealed
because Republicans will think they have done enough.
Even the Obama team spoke on this
issue. In an email to Obama supporters Tuesday, Greg Schultz, the Ohio State
Director on the Obama team, urged voters to speak up: “This bill could mean an
end to our last three days of early voting this November — and would change the
rules, right in the middle of an election year. It's an unambiguous attack on
our voting rights.”The other problem is the repeal
could be unconstitutional. After HB 194 passed, voters were quick to speak out
against the new law and put it up for referendum in the November 2012 ballot.
So Republicans are repealing a law that is already up for referendum. This is
the first time that’s happened in the Ohio legislature, and Democrats claim it might be unconstitutional.
But a lot
of that opposition may be pure political posturing. After all, Democrats were
sure they were going to win the referendum on HB 194, and they were sure they
could use it to get more supporters out to vote. With SB 295, the referendum of
HB 194 could potentially be taken off the ballot, and state Democrats will lose
one issue to hammer Republicans with in an election year.
In a sense,
Democrats aren’t just upset about a “change of rules in the middle of an
election year,” as Schultz put it in his email. They’re upset about a change in
politics in the middle of an election year.
SB 295 does have some legitimate problems. It’s good to see most of the
draconian restrictions on voting repealed, but if Republicans really want to
admit their mistake, they’ll repeal the rest of the restrictions as well.