Introduced Monday, March 14th, Ohio SB 296 would require people petitioning a court to extend the hours of a polling location(s) past the official closing time to pay a cash bond equal to the cost of keeping the polling place(s) open. Yes, a poll tax would charged to make sure everyone in line can vote. Then to add insult to injury the law would make you cast a provisional ballot if it is after official voting hours.
SB 296 seems to start out great by creating “overtime” pay for election officials at polling places if they are kept open past the official closing time.
(K)(1) Prior to the day of an election, the board of elections shall prepare and file with the office of the secretary of state an estimate of the hourly cost of keeping a polling place in the county open after the time for the closing of the polls pursuant to a court order issued under section 3501.321 of the Revised Code. The estimate shall include the cost of compensating the precinct election officials who are assigned to a polling place at the rate specified in division (H) of section 3501.28 of the Revised Code. The secretary of state shall make the estimate available on the secretary of state’s official web site not later than the time for the opening of the polls on the day of the election.
(H)(1) A precinct election official who works in a polling place after the time for the closing of the polls, as specified in section 3501.32 of the Revised Code, as a result of a court order to keep the polling place open after that time shall be compensated at a rate of twenty-two dollars and fifty cents per hour for the period worked as a result of the court order.
The law also allows for Cost of living adjustments each year! That’s usually something Republicans hate to do when tax dollars are involved.
Then the other shoe falls.
The reason to create the “overtime” pay and to figure out the costs of keeping the polling place open past the official closing time is because the law would require people who petition a court to extend polling hours would have to put up a cash bond equal to the costs of running the location(s) after hours.
Sec. 3501.321. (A)(1) A person who seeks an order that one or more polling places in a county remain open past the time for the closing of the polls, as specified in section 3501.32 of the Revised Code, shall file a petition in the court of common pleas of that county. Upon filing the petition, the petitioner shall serve notice of the petition upon the secretary of state and the attorney general. Except as otherwise provided in division (A)(2) of this section, the petitioner also shall post with the clerk of the court a cash bond in an amount equal to the cost of keeping the relevant polling places open for the requested period of time, as estimated by the board of elections in accordance with division (K)(1) of section 3501.17 of the Revised Code.
This would be like a poll tax to extend the polling hours for reasons outside the control of the voter.
Reasons to extend polling hours can include running out of ballots, long lines due to a lack of voting booths, a bad traffic accident that would keep people from getting to the polling place on time, technical issues with the voting equipment, and problems with registration.
The law also states if you had the bond waived and succeeded in your petition, you and any others included in the petition would be the ONLY ones allowed to vote at that polling location held open.
The bond requirement reminds me of the extra charges a utility charges to restore service after hours if you have your service disconnected. The extra fees are to discourage you from letting your service be disconnected. The GOP wants to discourage you from petitioning the court to hold open polling places.
Then so as to really make a petition action less likely to occur, the Republicans include this:
(C) An elector who appears in a polling place to vote after the time for the closing of the polls pursuant to a court order shall cast a provisional ballot under section 3505.181 of the Revised Code.
That means that should a court order extend polling hours, any votes cast after hours won’t be counted election night, if at all. In Ohio, provisional ballots are held for 10 days and if not needed to decide a race, are tossed in the trash.
The state would also be allowed to appeal the extension and if the court then decides the polling place shouldn’t have stayed open, those provisional ballots would be trashed even if needed to decide a race.
This law reminds me of the TRAP laws being used on clinics that provide abortion services. Yes you can still get an abortion but the regulations are so onerous you are extremely limited on finding a provider to get one.
SB 296 doesn’t keep you from voting, per se, but the new regulations make it less likely your vote would count because of something out of your control at the polling place on election day and the Republicans are hoping you will give up trying to vote if there are problems.
If that isn’t undemocratic I don’t know what is?