New Ohio Election Bill Draws on Bipartisan Summit and Conference for Reforms to Ohio Election Law

August 4, 2009

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212-998-6289

New York -- Today, Secretary Jennifer Brunner, and Representatives Dan Stewart and Tracy Maxwell Heard introduced the Ohio Election Enhancements Bill. Drawn from the historic 2008 and 2009 election summits called by Secretary Brunner and chaired by the Brennan Center's Lawrence Norden, the bill offers many reforms for Ohio's Election System. 

"I am thrilled to see that Secretary Brunner and Representatives Stewart and Heard have used the cooperative work of the summit, and drawn on the expertise of the election officials, academics and advocates of all political backgrounds, to draft a comprehensive election reform bill," says Norden.

"The Election Enhancement bill and other changes proposed by Secretary Brunner should result in a number of important improvements to the administration of elections in Ohio," continued Norden. 

Among other things, the bill makes the following changes endorsed in the "Framework for Reform," from the Final Report of the Ohio Summits:

  • Establishes sensible database matching rules, making it less likely that eligible voters will be removed from registration rolls, while providing that county election officials must be given information to help them maintain more accurate rolls;.
  • Improves the design requirements for ballots, election forms and the Ohio driver's license to make voter error less likely;
  • Makes it easier for voters to correct ministerial errors to their registration forms, absentee ballot envelopes, and provisional ballot affirmation form, so that they are not voided for technical reasons;
  • Simplifies provisional ballot procedures, increasing the likelihood that all eligible voters will have the opportunity to vote a regular ballot;
  • Clarifies that the purpose of Voter ID is for confirmation of identity, allowing voters to use passports and other ID not previously permitted;
  • Provides counties with the opportunity to increase the number of early voting sites, with the goal of shortening long lines during the early voting period;
  • Changes the policy for updating registration addresses at the Ohio BMV to comply with Federal Law 

Secretary Brunner has also announced the establishment of several study workgroups on topics ranging from improvements to the public voter registration database query system, to a reevaluation of the process for using backup paper ballots, to modernizing the voter registration system, to streamlining the voting process for military and overseas voters, per recommendations from summit participants and the Final Report.

"The bill reflects many of the consensus-based recommendations that came out of the summit process and demonstrates how an open and thoughtful process can lead to compromises that improve election administration for all," says Norden.  Noting that the introduction of the bill was the first of several steps in the legislative process, he adds,"My hope is that, at the end of the day, both parties in the Ohio Legislature will work with Secretary Brunner to ensure that the consensus-based process that was so helpful in the summit and conference leads to changes that improve elections for all Ohioans.  This bill is a critical step in that direction." 

For more information or to set up an interview with Lawrence Norden, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212-998-6289 or jeanine.plant-chirlin@nyu.edu.