Hearings begin on elections bill described as civil

Marc Kovac Dix Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senate began hearings Wednesday on what one sponsor characterized as a warm, fuzzy election bill containing a series of mostly noncontroversial provisions that members from both sides of the political aisle support.

Senate Bill 10, among GOP leaders’ priority issues of the new session, is co-sponsored by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. It stands in contrast to other election-related legislation debated in recent years that included photo identification requirements and other more controversial provisions that led to lengthy floor debates and public protest.

SB 10 proposes to:

• Ensure eligible voters waiting in line during early voting days to be permitted to cast a ballot after the polls close.

• Allow disabled voters to cast ballots from their cars or receive assistance in casting provisional ballots.

• Increase to 10 minutes from five the amount of time voters have to consider their ballot choices at voting machines.

• Provide “reasonable access” for journalists to polling places.

In testimony before the Senate’s State Government Oversight and Reform Committee Wednesday, Sen. Bill Coley, a Republican from southwestern Ohio and primary co-sponsor, called the legislation a “small but nonetheless important step in improving voter accessibility at the polls and increasing transparency in the system.”

Sen. Shirley Smith, a Democrat from Cleveland and the other primary co-sponsor of the bill, touted law changes to provide greater accessibility for disabled Ohioans to the polls.

“It is easy for most of us to forget how difficult life is for people who rely on wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and the assistance of others,” she said in written testimony provided to the lawmaker panel. “... That is why I believe that our laws should be written to guarantee everyone universal access to polling locations in line with the national Americans with Disabilities Act. And where such accommodations are not possible, the law should be flexible enough to accommodate varying levels of ability.”

mkovac@dixcom.com

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