Barborak among those voting against voter registration bill

LISBON – State Rep. Nick Barborak was among state legislators who voted against a recent bill supporters say is designed to keep Ohio’s voter registration database current.

“It wasn’t a terrible bill,” said Barborak, D-Lisbon. “From what I saw it didn’t have a financial impact on Columbiana County” but other counties could be affected.

His chief concern was about the change to the provisions for purging registered voters from the rolls, which is done for either voting inactivity or due to conflicting address. The bill would allow the purge be performed annually instead of every two years.

“Voting is a fundamental right as a U.S. citizen, and we should do everything we can to protect that,” he said, adding this bill appears to taking that philosophy in the other direction.

County elections board Director Adam Booth said they are required by federal law to send their voting registration records every two years to the National Change of Address database operated by the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Service then cross-references addresses to determine if they match what is on file with the elections board. The information checked by the Postal Service is returned to the state and county elections board, which mails out postcards to voters with conflicting addresses, asking them to confirm they still live there.

The bill passed by the Ohio House would require the address checks be done annually instead of every two years. It would also reduce the look-back period on these address checks from three years to one year.

Booth said the people who fail to respond cannot be automatically removed from the voting rolls even after this occurs. The elections board has to wait another four years before doing so in case the person votes during that period from the address still on record or engages in an election-related activity, such as signing a candidate’s petition.

“I think it’s a good bill. It tightens up the rules and allows us to keep a more up-to-date record,” he said.

The elections board as a matter of routine already contacts registered voters who have failed to vote within two years by mailing a postcard asking them to confirm their address. If no response is received, the elections board must wait another four years before removing the person but only if they have failed to vote during that period or engage in an election-related activity.

The bill passed by the House also requires state agencies to share information with the secretary of state to help maintain the voter registration database, and Barborak said this has him concerned from a privacy aspect.

The bill also lowers the minimum number of touch-screen electronic voting machines counties must have, which also bothered Barborak. This would not affect Columbiana County, which uses a system consisting of paper ballots fed into a scanning machine that tallies the votes.

Barborak said much of his opposition is because of the possible affect the bill would have on larger counties, where voting is sometimes problematic because the number of potential voters is so much greater.

“I think in Columbiana County we don’t have these problems. Our board of elections does a good job … but not every county has the same experience,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.