A legislative initiative calling for creation of a database that would help coordinate Ohio county boards of elections in instances in which a ballot issue straddles political subdivision boundaries recently got a first hearing before Ohio House of Representatives committee members.
House Bill 237 would streamline coordination and communications from county to county in such circumstances, according to the bill’s sole sponsor, Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, R-Marysville.
“HB 237 requires a political subdivision with territory in more than one county that places an issue on the ballot to notify the board of elections of every county in which the political subdivision has territory,” Pelanda told her peers seated on the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. “Furthermore, the bill requires the Ohio secretary of state’s office to establish a database to facilitate communication between the boards of elections and the secretary concerning local elections and makes an appropriation to set up such a database.”
The appropriation amount is $300,000 in each fiscal year in 2018 and 2019 and would fund development of the database.
According to analysis of the bill provided by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the director of Budget and Management would create an account for the appropriation. Expenditures from the appropriation must be accounted for as though the appropriation were made in the 2018-19 Main Operating Budget bill, subject to all provisions of that bill generally applicable to such appropriations.
Under HB 237, when an elections board receives a valid filing to place a local candidate, question, or issue on the ballot, the database must allow the board to enter that information in the database. The database, next, triggers a notification to the secretary of state. If the local ballot item should appear on the ballot in more than one county, the database also must automatically send an electronic notice to the board of elections of every relevant county and allow the board to determine which precincts are affected.
In the case of a local ballot question or issue, commission analysis detailed, the database must allow the appropriate board of elections to submit proposed ballot language to the chief elections officer for approval and must allow the secretary to transmit approval, disapproval, or other information to the board.
“When the secretary approves the ballot language for a question or issue that should appear on the ballot in more than one county, the database must automatically transmit the ballot language to the board of elections of every relevant county,” commission analyst Abby McMahon wrote. “Existing law requires the secretary to approve local ballot language but does not specify a procedure to do so.”
The goal of the bill is simple and straightforward, Pelanda noted. It would ensure that every Ohio voter is properly enfranchised to cast their vote on a local ballot issue that encompasses the area in which they reside.
“HB 237 allows for efficient resource utilization,” the lawmaker said. “Providing ballot language and candidate information electronically will free up local boards of elections and state resources to be used in other ways — cutting back on the use of paper and allowing the process to become more fluid and time-friendly.
“HB 237 improves accuracy in allowing for ballot language to be built with a series of templates and allowing for proper transmission of candidate names, office titles, and ballot language which is reflected consistently and uniformly from county to county ballot and from the state to the county ballot.”
She said she believes implementation of such a database and its associated processes by eliminating any worry that a ballot is in some way deficient.
“HB 237 makes necessary improvements in communication and accuracy to our voting systems in Ohio,” Pelanda concluded. “I have been in contact with local boards of elections and the secretary of state’s office regarding this bill and they have offered guidance and suggestions as the legislative process continues.”
Introduced in May, the bill had not been scheduled for a second hearing at time of publication.