Ohio ACLU proposes new election rules

CLEVELAND - A civil liberties group is proposing a series of changes that it says will make voting easier and more efficient in Ohio.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and legislative leaders Thursday outlining its recommendations.

Among its proposals, the ACLU wants lawmakers to expand early voting hours for future elections, including providing more weekend hours for voting. The group said this would help reduce long lines at the polls on Election Day.

Also, the ACLU wants Husted to institutionalize the mailing of absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, a practice Husted began as part of a compromise with Cuyahoga County this year.

Additional ACLU suggestions for Husted include setting clear rules for updating the statewide voter database; investigating innovative use of technology, such as electronic poll books and online voter registration; and looking into contingency plans for voters potentially affected by a natural disaster.

After the recent presidential election, the ACLU received numerous reports of voter and poll worker confusion on Election Day. One common complaint was that poll workers were unaware of the correct voter ID requirements.

In some cases, the confusion led to provisional ballots, which have the potential to create serious problems in a close election, the ACLU said.

"Lowering the number of provisional ballots should be a major priority for officials," said Mike Brickner, the ACLU's director of communications and public policy. "Had this election been closer, the number of provisional ballots could have created a nightmare.

"Given the amount of partisan fighting over the rules, it's not surprising that voters and even some poll workers were confused," Brickner added. "One inexpensive, nonpartisan solution to this problem would be to require large signage at each polling place, clearly stating the identification rules for all to see on Election Day."

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