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Government & Politics

Gov. Kasich Vetoes a GOP Bill that Critics Called a 'Poll Tax'


Gov. John Kasich has vetoed a bill that would have required voters to post a cash bond if they want a court to order polling places to stay open late on Election Day. 

Earlier in the week, Kasich said he was considering S.B. 296. He said he agreed it was important to make sure a judge’s decision to keep polls open late was based on a real problem.

“We don’t want a judge, just because of some sort of pressure, to order something open just because of Twitter or Facebook or whatever,” he said.

The governor has subordinated the interests of Ohio taxpayers ... (to) those who want to game Election Day.

But on the other hand, Kasich had problems with the part of the legislation that would have required a voter to come up with a bond payment to keep polls open.

“They improved this provision as it went along," from the original bill sponsored by Cincinnati Republican Sen. Bill Seitz. But "frankly, I wish we would have been involved in it a little bit earlier,” Kasich said.

A photo of voters at a polling place
Judges have ordered polls to remain open because of a range of problems from computer glitches to traffic wrecks.

A question of money and voting
In a statement about his veto, Kasich says judges already have wide discretion to set the amount of the bond and can waive the requirement. And the governor said this bill would have prohibited state court judges from exercising their discretion.

He also said the bill may have kept voters "from seeking an injunction to allow after-hours voting when there may be a valid reason for doing so." 

Here's a link to the governor's veto.

But Seitz says the judge could have set the bond very low in some cases and lambasted Kasich’s veto.

“The governor has subordinated the interests of Ohio taxpayers and poll workers to the interest of those who want to game Election Day voting hours for political purposes,” he said.

'Chaos at the polls'
Seitz has been critical of a last-minute federal court order late on Ohio's primary day -- March 15 -- that polling places in four southwest Ohio counties stay open late because of a traffic accident and resulting congestion. The bill would not have affected federal judges, but Seitz said it would send a message. He says this veto is bad for the November election.

“That will facilitate chaos at the polls this fall because without this bill, courts could seize on this bad recent precedent and end up with 88 different sets of voting hours in Ohio’s 88 counties set by state court judges bent on appeasing their political friends to rig the election,” he said.

'A poll tax'

I promise you it would have been another failure, embarrassing and costly to the State of Ohio.

But Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper says Kasich made the right call.

“This thing amounted to nothing more than an enormous poll tax, and I’m glad the governor saw fit to veto it. It was obviously the right decision,” Pepper said.

Pepper says the state is already wasting taxpayer money appealing court decisions about new laws that restrict early voting, which federal courts have ruled unconstitutional. Pepper says he thinks Kasich realized this legislation was just another lawsuit waiting to happen.

“There would have been a lawsuit filed, and I promise you it would have been another failure, embarrassing and costly to the State of Ohio. So I think the reality has set in again for the governor that these laws passed with all of the fury of this gerrymandered Legislature without the constitutional scrutiny just don’t make sense," he said.

Alternative changes

early voting 2012
Ohio is appealing two federal court orders to keep extended early voting hours, and is facing a third suit over its process for removing voters from rolls.

  This veto doesn’t mean the end of talk about changing the process for keeping polls open later. Lawmakers want to make those changes and so does Secretary of State Husted, according to his spokesman Joshua Eck.

“The secretary is supportive of finding a way to create a good standard for the future so we will know how these things will be handled in the courts for future elections,” Eck said.

But for this November’s election, the process for keeping the polls open longer hours will be the same as it was in previous elections;  lawmakers won’t be back in session in time to pass a new bill.