Read the original editorial from the Akron Beacon Journal here.
Continuing its step-by-step approach to election law changes, the Ohio Senate last week took up a proposal that enjoys broad support among election officials and voting-rights advocates. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Larry Obhof, a Medina Republican, would encourage the use of electronic poll books, now employed in about a dozen counties in the state.
Jon Husted, the secretary of state, long has backed electronic poll books. Obhof’s bill would authorize the state Board of Voting Machine Examiners to test, and Husted to certify, electronic poll books, just as voting equipment is tested and certified. The secretary of state’s office would be charged with developing rules and instructions for the use of electronic poll books.
For voters, the devices offer important advantages. Verifying registration takes seconds instead of minutes, poll workers swiping a driver’s license or typing in a name. More, information on electronic poll books is up-to-date, compared to paper books, often two weeks old by Election Day.
Most important, electronic poll books reduce the number of provisional ballots by giving poll workers information to steer voters to the correct voting locations. Ohio’s heavy use of provisional ballots has been identified by experts as a top problem in the election system.
Although electronic poll books are a substantial investment (Cuyahoga County is spending about $3 million to test the devices in 423 polling places), they are money-savers in the long run. In Montgomery County, one person updates voting records in a matter of hours, a job that had required more than a dozen people and taken three weeks for paper records.
Next, the Senate once again should consider online voter registration, another technological advance that would help move Ohio from a horse-and-buggy, paper-based system to a fast, modern system designed for accuracy and, most important, ease of access to the polls.