On Friday, Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed a modern-day poll tax that would have required voters to post a cash bond in order to keep polling places open late, even in the event of a flood, snowstorm, or other natural disaster. The law also included a myriad of other provisions aimed at making it practically impossible for Ohio voters to petition to keep polling places open late in case of emergencies: It would have raised the level of legal proof needed to obtain relief, barred media accounts from being entered into evidence unless sworn under oath, and automatically permitted the state to avoid the effects of an unfavorable ruling through an automatic stay of the decision and right of appeal to a special Election Day judicial body. The bill, in other words, betrayed a total lack of regard for the right to vote. While Governor Kasich vetoed this atrocious bill, he nonetheless stated that he agreed with most of its requirements and all but invited legislators to resubmit the bill with a new provision that would grant judges the discretion to waive the bond requirement.
Although Ohioans may have been temporarily saved from the onerous requirements of this particular bill, the State of Ohio has undertaken a plethora of restrictive actions since 2012 that would have made it harder for voters to cast their ballots in a blatant effort to gain partisan advantage. The laundry list of voting impediments includes: the elimination of Golden Week, where voters could register to vote and cast ballots on the same day, the abolishment of early voting hours on weekends and after 5 p.m. on workdays, purging millions of “inactive” voters from the rolls, casting aside legitimate ballots through changes to how provisional ballots are counted, implementation of new restrictions on the length of time that voters have to fix unintentional mistakes on their ballots, limiting counties—no matter their size—to only one early voting location, and blocking eligible 17-year olds from the polls on Primary Day. While many of these laws are no longer in effect due to court orders or legal settlements, they nonetheless represent cynical attempts to manipulate public access to the polls for the sake of politics and are contrary to the ideals of our democratic system of governance.
Proponents of these restrictions justify them as necessary measures to curb voter fraud, reduce the cost of election administration, and instill confidence in the electoral process. These interests are certainly valid in the abstract, but they do not excuse the lengths to which Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, Governor John Kasich, and the state legislature have gone to block eligible voters from casting their ballots freely and fairly. In his own investigation into instances of voter fraud in Ohio, Husted came up with nearly nothing. In 2013 there were a whopping four convictions for voter fraud, representing just .00005% of Ohio’s 7.7 million registered voter population. That’s less than one’s chance of getting struck by lightning.