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Governor Kasich Vetoes Controversial Voting Bill

Governor Kasich votes in March 2016 primary
Karen Kasler

Gov. John Kasich has vetoed a bill that would have required voters to post a cash bond if they want a court to order polling places to stay open late on Election Day.

Earlier in the week, Kasich said he was thinking about the bill. On one hand, he said he agreed it was important to make sure a judge’s decision to keep polls open late was based on a real problem.

“We don’t want a judge, just because of some sort of pressure, to open something open just because of Twitter or Facebook or whatever.”

But on the other hand, Kasich had problems with the part of the legislation that would have required the party to come up with a bond payment to keep polls open.

“They improved this provision as it went along. Um. Frankly, I wish we would have been involved in it a little bit earlier.”

In a statement about his veto of the bill, Kasich says judges already have wide discretion to set the amount of the bond and can waive that requirement. And the Governor said this bill would have prohibited state court judges from exercising their discretion. But Republican State Senator Bill Seitz says the judge could have set the bond very low in some cases. He is not happy at all with Kasich’s veto.

“The Governor has subordinated the interests of Ohio taxpayers and poll workers to the interest of those who want to game Election Day voting hours for political purposes.”

Seitz has been critical of a federal court order late on Ohio's primary day - March 15 - that polling places in five southwest Ohio counties stay open late based on a concern over traffic congestion. The bill would not have affected federal judges, but Seitz said it would send a message. He says this veto is not good for voters this fall.

“That will facilitate chaos at the polls this fall because without this bill, courts could seize on this bad recent precedent and end up with 88 different sets of voting hours in Ohio’s 88 counties set by state court judges bent on appeasing their political friends to rig the election.”

But Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper says Kasich made the right call.

“This thing amounted to nothing more than an enormous poll tax and I’m glad the Governor saw fit to veto it. It was obviously the right decision.”

Pepper says the state is already wasting taxpayer money appealing court decisions about new laws that federal courts have ruled unconstitutional. Pepper says he thinks Kasich realized this legislation was just another lawsuit waiting to happen.

“There would have been a lawsuit filed and I promise you it would have been another failure, embarrassing and costly to the State of Ohio. So I think the reality has set in again for the Governor that these laws passed with all of the fury of this gerrymandered legislature without the constitutional scrutiny just don’t make sense.”

This veto doesn’t mean the end of talk about changing the process for keeping polls open later. Lawmakers want to make those changes and so does Secretary of State Husted, according to his spokesman Joshua Eck.

“The Secretary is supportive of finding a way to create a good standard for the future so we will know how these things will be handled in the courts for future elections.”

But for this November’s election, the process for keeping the polls open longer hours will be the same as it was in previous elections since lawmakers won’t be back in session in time to pass a new bill.