Ohio voters would be able to vote at more locations but wouldn't be allowed to register and vote the same day, under new guidelines state Democrats are proposing.
The bill introduced in the Ohio House this week would eliminate the weeklong early voting period that allowed people to register and vote on the same day, would open early voting to more than just one location, and would eliminate special elections like the two held Tuesday in Trumbull County.
Tom McCabe, director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, said the wide-ranging ballot enhancement proposal streamlines procedure but likely would be joined with additional costs, which he expects now to be minimal.
''When you look at the grand scheme of things, making it easier for people to cast ballots, making voting more accessible, it's a small price to pay,'' McCabe said of the anticipated costs.
The legislation introduced Tuesday calls for early voting to begin 20 days before a general election and increases the number of locations allowed from one to four.
The shortened voting period, down from 35 days, would eliminate a weeklong period in which new voters can register and vote on the same day.
The policy ignited the most contentious partisan spat of Ohio's 2008 election, with Republicans accusing the Democratic secretary of state of reading state election law to benefit her own party and overlooking the potential for voter fraud.
The period was upheld in court, but Democrats have largely decided that it produced too much of an administrative headache for local officials.
''I like what they have done in allowing boards to expand voting into remote locations,'' McCabe said. ''It allows us to give more access to voters and make it easier to vote. I think it's a good thing.''
Jodi Fiorenzo Dibble, Trumbull County Elections Board deputy director, said the additional locations create security and logistical questions regarding ballots and ballot protection. Either there would have to be an on-demand ballot printer, which requires a server or the locations would need equipped with enough of every ballot style.
Absentee voting is done on paper ballots.
''We have to be able to provide every ballot style for anyone who walks in there,'' she said.
In November, early voting in Mahoning and Trumbull counties was done at the election board offices.
The legislation also aims to save money by moving special elections to primary or general election days, which is expected to save upward of $4 million a year. It also eliminates what many see as a trend recently in political subdivisions and school districts with tax issues to override a large majority vote with a small minority, McCabe said.
In Mahoning County, it costs about $500 to open a precinct for a special election. In Trumbull County, it costs about $800, but that cost is paid by the school district or township asking for the levy.
''We charge it back to them,'' Fiorenzo Dibble said.
The legislation also seeks to reduce the number of provisional ballots used in Ohio by reducing the number of reasons for providing a voter a provisional ballot from 13 to three: the voter's name doesn't appear on the poll list, the voter requested an absentee ballot, or the voter couldn't provide the proper identification.
It would also simplify voter identification guidelines. Voters would either be required to show a photo ID, or two other forms that prove identity. The forms would not have to include a current address, a requirement under current law that increased the number of provisional ballots.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.