Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released the third in a series of briefs assessing potential problems for voters in states that have experienced issues with election administration or recent changes to voting rules. Each brief analyzes steps to improve election performance and the voting experience. Today is Ohio’s voter registration deadline, so we turn our attention to a state which has been plagued by election administration struggles.
Key issues identified by CAP experts include:
- New voting restrictions: Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld a new voting law that eliminated the so-called “golden week,” when the registration period overlapped with early voting. In the past, 1.4 percent of total ballots cast were cast during “golden week,” with 80,000 Ohio voters turning out during that period. Black voters were 3.5 times more likely to vote during Ohio’s golden week in 2008 and five times more likely to vote during that week in 2012 compared with white voters. The 6th Circuit also upheld new provisional ballot rules that allow the state to discard votes because of technical errors. Voters have asked the full 6th Circuit to review that ruling.
- Purges: In 2015 alone, the state removed hundreds of thousands of voters from the voting rolls for not voting in recent elections. In the three largest counties—home to Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati—a total of 144,000 people were removed from voter registration rolls, and voters from Democratic-leaning neighborhoods were removed at roughly twice the rate as voters from Republican-leaning neighborhoods. The remedy for how these voters will be put back on the rolls so they can vote is currently unclear. On October 2, it was revealed that more than 1 million of Ohio’s 7.7 million registered voters did not receive their absentee ballot applications after Secretary Jon Husted (R) removed from the list of eligible absentee voters those whose address had changed and those who did not vote in either the 2012 or 2014 elections.
- Wait times: Voters in urban counties have reported standing in line for hours, even though state’s overall average waiting times were reasonable. Many 2012 polling places saw long lines—an average wait of two hours in Akron—during early voting the weekend before the election. The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration recommends that no citizen should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.
- Voter challenges and voter intimidation: In 2012, activists challenged the registrations of more than 2,100 Ohio voters, mostly students and African Americans. Those challenges proved baseless.
- Provisional ballots: Ohio has had some of the highest percentages of provisional ballots cast—and rejected. In the 2008 race, 3.6 percent of ballots cast were provisional, and 0.68 percent of all ballots cast were rejected. The share of mail-in ballots that were rejected has grown sharply in recent years—up to 1.79 percent in the November 2015 local elections and 0.97 percent in the March 2016 primary. The counties with the most voters of color used the most provisional ballots. The state may see an even higher percentage of ballots rejected in this year’s election given the state’s new provisional ballot rule.
“Across the country, too many voters may be facing problems this year when they go to have their voices heard and exercise their power at the polls,” said Liz Kennedy, Director of Government and Democratic Reform at the Center for American Progress and an author of the series. “The integrity of elections in the United States demands that every single eligible American is able to cast a ballot and trust that it will be counted. The state has a responsibility to encourage and facilitate participation. Instead, targeted voter suppression and intimidation, new harmful laws and restrictions, and poor election administration decisions are erecting barriers to the ballot for too many Americans.”
Read the issue brief, “Preventing Problems at the Polls: Ohio,” here.
Access the previous brief in the series: Wisconsin; Florida.
For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at email@example.com or 202.741.6258.