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Government & Politics

Online Voting Registration Moves Ohio Into the 21st Century...Next Year

Jon Husted

Soon, Ohioans will be allowed to register to vote online instead of only via the old paper application. But some lawmakers are still skeptical about the plans.

The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Jon Husted, says being able to register to vote online is a good idea for many reasons.

“It’ll make voting more secure; it’ll make it easier; it’ll save a lot of money," says Husted.

"We expect that the taxpayers at the local community level will save millions of dollars. It’s more secure because of the fact that we can do an instantaneous (check) on voters to make sure they’re eligible to vote in Ohio.”

After years of pushing the issue, the House gave the final go-ahead to allow for online voter registration, but there’s a catch. The House added a provision to make sure voters can’t register online until next year - something Husted opposed.

“There are absolutely no good reasons why it should be delayed until 2017 from an administrative point of view. That’s a policy decision that they’re making not one based on implementation.”

Husted says the online tool is ready now, and he just needs the legal authority to start it up.

Online registration still requires state ID

The delay in implementing the law irked House Democrats such as Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent, who’s made elections issues her priority. 

Rep. Kathleen Clyde ( D - Kent ) sees the passage of the online registration bill as a victory for voters, but questions the delay and the ID requirements.

Clyde also voiced concerns about the way the online tool will work. To register people will have to have a signature on file. Husted’s online platform will use the signature from a driver’s license or a state ID card.

However, Clyde says this hurts what could be as many as 300,000 people who have neither of those cards.

“Those happen often to be low-income voters, minority voters, young voters and seniors. So we want to think about how we can improve the system in the future and include those voters and allow their access to online voter registration.”

Clyde wants to take the issue one step further and require automatic voter registration. Four states have adopted that, and two-dozen others are considering it. 

“Automatic voter registration would be an opt-out system rather than an opt-in system. You would be automatically registered to vote when you visit a DMV, or access your veteran’s benefits, or graduate from high school and it is the wave of the future.”

The on-line registration measure passed overwhelmingly, but Democratic Rep. Teresa Fedor of Toledo voted against it, making the claim that Republicans keep passing elections laws that benefit their own party.

LaRose defends registration bill
Republican Sen. Frank LaRose, who sponsored the legislation, has played a role in several election-related bills that has passed the General Assembly recently. He disputes Fedor’s claims.

“I think it’s an unfortunate line of attack that people like to engage in," says LaRose.

"I think that what we should be talking about is that in Ohio it’s easier to vote than most other states. We have 28 days of early voting. You can vote by mail; you can stop by the county board of elections and cast your early ballot, and of course we have Election Day.”

Husted says another issue he’d like to work on is the ability of voters to request an absentee ballot online instead of needing to mail-in a form. But he and others have said that actually casting ballots online isn’t even close to happening.