House Bill 3 Restrictions

 

House Bill 3, enacted January 31, 2006, and effective May 1 and June 1, 2006, rewrote major aspects of Ohio election law. Its proponents say it will reduce fraudulent voting, citing four instances of fraudulent voter registrations in 2004 (though no documented instances of actual fraudulent voting). Opponents warn that it will suppress voter registration and voting by under-represented populations, will cause confusion for poll workers and voters, and is already causing confusion for Boards of Elections and registration drives.

While it is extremely difficult to get clear interpretations of the new law, some the changes it will impose include:


Restrictions on Petitions

Limiting access to the ballot is one way of disenfranchising voting.

  • HB 3 requires that write-in candidates file at least 62 days before Election Day. Since absentee ballots are not ready until 35 days before Election Day, and ballots do not have to be prepared with a write-in candidate’s name printed on them, it is hard to see any justification for this, other than to discourage write-in candidates.
  • Ex-felons may not circulate petitions.
  • Circulators of petitions must be registered Ohio voters.
  • There can only be one proposal on a petition.
  • Voters with disabilities may have to use an “attorney in fact” to sign a petition.


Restrictions on Registration

HB 3 identification requirements for registering are stricter than those required for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). But the really serious restrictions are being placed on those individuals who help people become registered to vote.

  • If the registrar is being paid, even if registration is a minor part of the job, that person must go online, register with the Secretary of State, complete an online training program and complete and return an affirmation form. The registrar must fill in name, address and employer on each registration form he or she assists with, and must return the completed registration forms personally (in person or by mail) directly to a county Board of Elections or to the Secretary of State. Registrars are not allowed to return the completed forms to an organization for checking and forwarding to the proper officials. Overlooking any of these requirements can result in criminal penalties.
  • Unpaid volunteer registrars do not take the training or sign registration forms, but the direct delivery may still apply.
  • Employees of designated agencies are exempted from these requirements.
  • Ex-felons are forbidden to be registrars.
  • Appropriately, all completed registrations must be sent to a Board of Elections or the Secretary of State within 10 days of completion or before the registration deadline, whichever is earlier.


Restrictions on Voting

Voters will find it much more likely that they will vote a provisional ballot instead of a regular ballot in 2006. A regular ballot is automatically a valid ballot and will be counted; a provisional ballot is counted only after the voter’s eligibility has been validated.

  • All voters must produce an identification document before they are allowed to vote. If proper ID is not shown, the voter must vote a provisional ballot.
  • Any voter who has changed their name and not filed a change of name must vote provisionally, even if they are still in the same precinct and in the poll book.
  • Any voter may be challenged by a poll worker for a number of reasons and may be given only a provisional ballot.
  • The use of satellite offices of the Board of Elections for absentee voting is severely restricted.
  • Boards are restricted in their ability to provide “ballots on demand,” even if needed on Election Day.
  • “Harassment” of voters is prohibited, but is not defined.
  • Ballots cast in a precinct other than the voter’s home precinct will be considered as voted in the wrong “jurisdiction,” and will not be counted, even though the NVRA considers “jurisdiction” to refer to the county, not the precinct.
  • Greatly increased requirements for using provisional ballots will slow the voting process and will increase the administrative burden on poll workers and Boards of Elections.
  • Voters with disabilities may be forced to obtain an “attorney in fact” instead of using the assistance and adaptive devices that are available.


Restrictions on Recounts/Challenges

If anyone suspects that something was done improperly in the conduct of an election, House Bill 3 will make it more difficult to get a hearing.

  • If a losing candidate requests a recount, the amount of the required deposit has been increased from $10 per precinct to $50 per precinct.
  • The requirement that a random sample of ballots be hand counted to check the accuracy of the voting equipment has been reinterpreted to allow the sample to not be truly random.
  • The requirement that the voter verified paper audit trail be used has been removed or weakened.
  • The law forbids contesting a federal election in state court; the challenge may only be raised in federal court, which is more difficult, more expensive and slower.


Missing Provisions

Many provisions that are needed in order to have fair and efficient elections were not addressed in HB 3 and are still missing from the election laws.

  • There is insufficient support for Boards of Elections and poll workers including materials, available expertise, training and back-up. One or two hours is insufficient to train poll workers. One and a half days of training is provided twice a year for selected Board personnel. But this is clearly insufficient training for complex laws and procedures.
  • Providing voters with information is more important than ever with these new rules and procedures. Yet it is impossible to get clear answers from the state’s chief election officer about how to interpret these new rules. This leaves voters in jeopardy of being disenfranchised or accidentally doing something illegal.
  • There is no requirement for a random hand count to assure voters, candidates, and the media that the vote count is accurate.
  • Strict deadlines were enacted for completing any recounts and finalizing the official vote count, but there is no clear explanation of the proper procedures to follow to achieve a correct count before those deadlines.
  • There is no clear requirement to use the voter verified paper audit trail in a recount.
  • There are no safeguards against improper deletions from the voter registration database.
  • There are no guidelines for providing voting accessibility for persons with disabilities.
  • There are insufficient or no security features and checks for voting equipment, supplies and procedures.
  • There is no enforcement process for improving Board procedures.