If you want to register to vote in Ohio, you need to go to your local election board to do that. But a bill by Republican State Senator Frank LaRose would allow Ohioans to register to vote online. It would also give voters the opportunity to request an absentee ballot online. And it would use technology to improve the exchange of voter data among states and state agencies. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says this is a good bill.
"We’ve been waiting for several years for the general assembly to take action on online voter registration," says Husted. " It’s really the next step in modernizing our election system and making it more secure and online registration does that."
Husted says online registration does something else – save money.
"This will actually serve as a cost savings because we will handle the work through the Secretary of State’s office. And the savings will accrue for local taxpayers as we save money in the 88 counties that will ultimately have to implement this into their systems," says Husted. "It would have saved, in the last election cycle, about 3 million dollars."
The Democrat who wants to take Husted’s job next year says she doesn’t have a problem with the legislation. State Senator Nina Turner says it’s a good idea. But she says the devil is in the details. And there’s already one place where she sees a potential problem.
"One of my concerns is the absentee ballot application portion where you have both a driver’s license and/or a state id to even request an absentee ballot application. And for me, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when if it’s about verifying who the person is, that verification will be seen once the voter turns in that absentee ballot," says Turner. "Their signature, you can then compare their signature because we can pull their signature from their voter registration form."
Turner says the idea behind this legislation is to make voting easier and increase participation so she says she’ll be looking for details that make the online process more difficult than the one now in place. Turner’s eyes are not just focused on this bill. She’s also going to ask a panel charged with updating the Ohio constitution to take a different action. Turner wants the constitutional modernization commission to put an issue on the ballot that would allow Ohioans to approve same day registration and voting on Election Day.
"To me, it is time for us to do that and put that forward to Ohio voters in order to promote a more engaged citizenry to allow people to register on the same day and vote," says Turner.
There’s no word when the Ohio legislature might take up Senator LaRose’s electronic election bill. It has not been scheduled for a committee hearing yet.