Senate bill expected to repeal Ohio's election law

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A proposal to repeal Ohio's contentious new election law will soon be introduced in the state's Senate, the leader of the Republican-led chamber said Wednesday.

The law trims early voting in the presidential battleground state, among other changes. It's been on hold since September until voters can decide this fall whether it should be tossed out.

Plans to replace the law are still being discussed, Senate President Tom Niehaus told reporters. The New Richmond Republican said it's too early to tell whether any legislation could be passed before November's general election.

Lawmakers are considering the idea of three separate bills to replace the law, he said. One might address the state's petition process. Another could make changes to local elections boards' operations, while a different bill would cover rules for early voting.

The state's top election official has called for lawmakers to scrap the election law, so it won't appear on fall ballots.

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says he believes Ohio should start over on the process of getting a new bill after the 2012 presidential election.

Husted contends that a fall campaign about the details of the elections law will confuse Ohioans at the same time election officials are trying to inform people about how to vote.

The law contains many ideas backed by Husted, though state lawmakers also left their mark. A partisan fight ensued over the plan, and the elections measure cleared the state Legislature in late June with no Democratic support.

Among other changes, the law shortens the in-person early voting window from 35 days before Election Day to 17 days and the period for absentee voting by mail from 35 days to 21. The cuts effectively eliminate a five-day period during which new voters could both register and cast a ballot on the same day. People would be allowed to vote in person on Saturday until noon, and not on Sundays or the three days before Election Day.

Volunteers from the Ohio Democratic Party and President Barack Obama's re-election campaign circulated petitions to successfully put the law on hold until Ohio voters could decide whether it should be kept.

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