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Bill Would Change Policy For Keeping Polls Open During Elections

Voters arrive at and leave a Columbus area polling place in November, 2015
Voters arrive at and leave a Columbus area polling place in November, 2015

During the Ohio primary in March, a federal judge ordered some Hamilton County precincts to stay open late. It’s not uncommon. In recent years, there have been several situations like that throughout the state. But a new bill at the Statehouse would make it harder to do that.

Republican Senator Bill Seitz’s bill would demand anyone trying to keep the polls open late to go to court and put up a cash bond. And if the precinct is ordered to stay open, only those who have filed the legal action would be able to vote.

“When the courts make these kinds of orders, they are inconveniencing hundreds of poll workers in a big county like mine. They’ve worked a 14 hour day already, only to be told at 7 o’clock, “hey, you’ve got to stick around for another 90 minutes.” That’s outlandish.”

But Democrat Cecil Thomas, the only African American man in the Senate, says the bill essentially imposes a hefty poll tax on a disenfranchised voter.

“Why should I have to pay a bond to exercise my right to vote? Isn’t that what they had to do back during the Jim Crow laws?”

The bill has already passed the Senate and is heading to the House.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.