COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Gov. John Kasich vetoed a bill Friday that would have required a cash bond for people to get a court order to keep polling places open late on Election Day in the key swing state.
Kasich, a Republican, said he agrees with many of the bill requirements, but its bond provision goes “a step too far.”
“Prohibiting state court judges from exercising their discretion to waive the bond requirement in only these types of cases is inequitable and might deter persons from seeking an injunction to allow after-hours voting when there may be a valid reason for doing so,” he said in his veto message.
The bill creates a process for state courts to follow when considering whether to grant a last-minute extension of voting hours. Such cases could stem from bad weather, voting equipment failures or other problems.
People seeking emergency relief from the court would have to pay a cash bond for the polls to remain open past their typical 7:30 p.m. close. The bond amount, determined by a judge, could be in the tens of thousands of dollars. The court must consider the cost of keeping the polls open.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Bill Seitz, blasted Kasich’s veto. He said without the bill, judges “bent on appeasing their political allies to rig the elections” could set different voting hours in Ohio’s 88 counties.
“Should this occur, the blame will fall squarely on the Governor,” said Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican.
He and other supporters have said the legislation would restore order to elections, recalling problems in previous elections. But opponents, including Democrats and the League of Women Voters of Ohio, argued the bill puts a price tag on the right to vote. They called on the governor to veto it.
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde and other Democrats praised Kasich. “Today’s veto stops a harmful bill that would have acted as a poll tax on the most vulnerable Ohioans,” Clyde, of Kent, said in a statement.
The measure is the second stand-alone bill Kasich has vetoed since taking office in 2011, though he has struck provisions from state budgets.
Kasich said judges should have a uniform process to follow when considering requests to keep the polls open, and he would work with state lawmakers.
“I also believe that the process this bill would create is sound and would prevent frivolous injunction requests from being granted,” Kasich said.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted supported the legislation but has said he thought the new bond requirement was unnecessary. In a statement Friday, Husted said he respected Kasich’s decision.
Last year, a state judge ordered polls in Cincinnati and surrounding Hamilton County to remain open for an extra 90 minutes, leading to a statewide delay in reporting results on a marijuana legalization ballot issue. The extension came after a few precincts reported problems getting voters their ballots because of poll workers’ unfamiliarity with a new electronic check-in system.
In March, a federal judge ordered polls in four southwest Ohio counties, including Hamilton County, to stay open for an extra hour during the presidential primary election – when Kasich was still in the race – because of a traffic accident affecting the region.
Both orders caused confusion at a cost of more than $57,000 to the county’s taxpayers, a Hamilton County elections official has told lawmakers.