High court rejects 4-way split of voting ballot proposal

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a state panel’s decision that a proposal to change Ohio voting laws should be split into four separate ballot issues.

Splitting them would have increased the effort, expense and time it would take to get the proposals before voters.

In a virtually unanimous decision, the court ordered the state Ballot Board to reconvene and to merge the four issues that split in a March 2 vote back into the single package of election law changes sought by Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections.

Three of seven justices concurred only in the judgment and another concurred in part and dissented in part. The court declined the election reform group’s request for extra time to collect signatures.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who chairs the Ballot Board, led the effort to split up the proposed changes on grounds that it was necessary because of a rule that such a proposal must be about one subject.

Backers appealed, arguing that the proposal’s components are all related and that the board misinterpreted the single-subject rule.

The proposal calls for automatically registering Ohioans to vote when they conduct business at state Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices. It would allow eligible Ohioans to register and cast a ballot on the same day during early voting and on Election Day. It also would guarantee that military service members and overseas citizens receive their ballots in a timely fashion and that voters with disabilities get equal access to the ballot box. Finally, it included a post-election audit provision.