Election transparency bill heads to Ohio House

Larry Limpf

News Editor

A bill written to increase transparency in Ohio’s elections has been passed in the state Senate and moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, partnered with Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State, on Senate Bill 71, which would create the Office of Data Analytics and Archives through which the state’s 88 county board of elections would submit data, including voter registration information, to the secretary of state’s office.
In her sponsor testimony to the Senate General Government Committee, Sen. Gavarone said Ohio is one of a few states that is a “bottom up” state for election administration, meaning the 88 boards administer elections and are the original and only source of election data.
She said her bill won’t change the decentralized nature of Ohio elections and data but it will establish specific data definitions to help better compare and analyze data among the 88 boards that may define terms differently.
“We must standardize election data definitions so that it is easy for the world to see that the number of voters who voted equates to the number of ballots that are counted in an election,” Sen. Gavarone told the committee, adding the bill creates definitions that will clean up the data so there are no perceived discrepancies to the public following an election.
In addition to codifying election data definitions, the bill requires county boards of elections to submit a daily record of its voter registration database to the secretary of state between the start of absentee and overseas voting and 81 days following an election. The bill calls for the secretary of state to publish the data on its website where it can be viewed by the public. The bill would also require retaining non-federal election ballots through the 81st day of the election. Current law only requires retaining non-federal election ballots for 60 days instead of 81, which is the amount of time the law permits the county boards to amend their official canvas of election results.
“It is common sense to require BOEs to retain copies of their voter registration database and the ballots their results are based on for the same number of days the BOEs could amend its official canvass of election results,” Gavarone said.
According to Gavarone, the secretary of state has estimated the bill would require a one-time investment of $5 million to implement the requirements with a majority of the funding going to the county board for upgrades in technology.
Currently, the secretary of state must manually survey the county boards for the data.


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