Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner released Wednesday to Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio General Assembly a cost-effective blueprint for enhancing Ohio’s elections.
“Elections Enhancements for Ohio” is based on recommendations of a report from the Brennan Center for Justice, as well as specific recommendations from the Ohio Association of Elections Officials, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, and experienced elections administrators with the Secretary of State’s office, Brunner said.
Brunner’s field representative, Michael Struble, met with Meigs County Commissioners Thursday to review the recommendations in Brunner’s report. If the recommendations are approved by the state legislature, the county could save costs.
The report recommends several cost-saving measures for local boards of election, whose budgets are appropriated by county commissioners. One such cost-saving proposal is to move special elections to primary or general election days, saving taxpayers an estimated $2.7 million per year.
Brunner also recommends the use of vote-by-mail for elections involving only a vacancy in office.
Brunner proposes limiting the ballot language for state issues, reducing the costs of ballot printing and the cost of advertising that ballot language, which is now reimbursed to the counties by the state.
The recommended changes also include improvements to the statewide voter registration database, and streamlining Ohio’s voter identification laws to bring them into line with those in other states. Brunner recommends allowing either an official photo ID or two non-photo IDs for voting purposes.
“This is a change that will provide both voters and poll workers with greater certainty and predictability in administering voter ID laws,” Brunner said.
Absentee voters could request an annual vote-by-mail ballot, which would automatically provide a mail-in ballot for each election that year. Now, voters must request absentee ballots for each election, although Ohio law no longer requires absentee voters to specify their reason for doing so.
The recommendations also include expanding the number of places an in-person early ballot could be cast, and bring a shorter (20 days instead of 30) early voting period into line with those of other states.
Provisional balloting, which often causes delays in deciding close races, would be streamlined under Brunner’s recommendations. Reasons for requiring a provisional ballot would be limited.
Struble told commissioners Thursday the changes could be approved and in effect in time for the November general election.