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Thursday
Apr272017

Testimony Against Original HB 41 Voting Bill

Testimony before the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee

April 2017—House Bill 41 to Modify Voting Procedures

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless does not support the changes to voting procedures proposed in House Bill 41.

NEOCH is a non-profit charitable organization operating in the City of Cleveland with a mission of amplifying the voice of homeless people.  We administer a number of programs that serve homeless people including coordinating all outreach, a housing website, a street newspaper, and a Homeless Congress monthly meeting place for homeless people.   NEOCH has worked on registering voters and then encouraging them to vote.  We helped the shelters register 1,281 people in Cuyahoga County during the summer of 2016.   We assist 23,000 homeless people in Cleveland with one-quarter of the residents of our shelters coming from the suburbs or the surrounding counties.  NEOCH helped to create the Identification Collaborative locally which provides funding and assistance to over 3,000 people a year obtain a birth certificate or state identification. 

I have been working with homeless people and helping with voting for 22 years, and since 2005 in Ohio the foundation of our democracy (voting) has become a hostage in the struggle between Republicans and Democrats.  I am not sure that you heard from our Governor, but we are deeply divided in the United States as outlined in his book Two Paths, and this legislation will only continue to divide our state.  You might want to check out the book to get some pointers on working across the aisle on a “united path” forward on legislation that helps people vote and will not unnecessarily disenfranchise voters.  How about working to make sure that every Ohio citizen is registered to vote?  How about working to get every Ohio citizen to cast a ballot either early or on Election Day?  Finally, how about working to get every Ohio citizen who wanted to vote but was forced to vote by provisional ballot have that vote count?  If we adopted this standard, we could heal this divide in Ohio and many of these barriers to voting could be eliminated. Let’s get back to voting as a fundamental right not a privilege for those who can afford identification or those who can read a government and understand a form. 

Typically, legislation is developed after a problem is brought to the attention of lawmakers.  Then lawmakers solicit experts to propose solutions and then develop a program or funding for the best solutions to these problems.  Voting rules, over the last dozen years in Ohio, are developed in the exact opposite way with solutions searching for a problem that statistically does not exist. They are often proposed by a legislator, opposed by the League of Women Voters and other experts, and then myths or exaggerations are touted as the reason for these “improvements” in the legislation.  There are so many problems that you could be addressing in Ohio such as the deaths related to the Opioid crisis, the high infant mortality rate or the best strategy to house the extreme rise in families who are losing their housing, but instead the Ohio legislature keeps revisiting voting procedures to fix “problems.” Sometimes those problems were only created by legislation enacted to throw up barriers to voting and ruled unconstitutional by the courts.   Every “improvement” proposed just makes it more and more difficult for low income, minority and homeless people to participate in our democratic process.

Every time one party proposes a piece of legislation to “improve voting” without seeking input from the other side, it spawns lawsuits and division.  NEOCH has repeatedly sued over disenfranchisement of homeless people.  From the original identification proposal, throwing away provisional ballots for minor errors and not following federal procedures when conducting a purge of the registration lists.  It does not have to be so complicated and so contentious.  We need to get back to working to get every citizen of Ohio to vote.  We need to work to allow the local boards to work with voter intent and accept that the threat of five years in jail for voter fraud is a significant deterrent.  Give the voters a chance to make an error or at least correct an error because no one is perfect.  Don’t pass rules that will make it impossible for segments of the Ohio population to not have an ability to vote.  We can figure out ways to help every Ohioan participate in selecting their representatives. 

Since you have not sought input from experts on these voting issues, I have to ask a number of questions of the people who developed this “solution” to a problem that I really do not see exists. There are many problems with voting in Ohio that you could address, but this early in person voting is not one of them. 

  1. Do you understand how difficult it is to get identification since September 11, 2001?

No matter if you are homeless or housed it is not easy to get identification in the post-September 11th world.   Those that wander from shelter to family to the sofas of friends have an even more difficult time.  The birth certificate is the basis for all forms of identification.  There is no national standard for the issuing of a birth certificate, and a few states make it nearly impossible for a homeless person to get a legitimate copy of their own birth certificate.  In our collaboration with service providers in Cleveland, we can demonstrate nightmare scenarios in which homeless people wait six, eight or ten months to receive a birth certificate.  The assistance with obtaining a birth certificate is expensive and for many takes a great deal of time to finally receive a legitimate form of identification.

There is no standard in the fee for a birth certificate or standard for the time required for another state to respond.  A son or daughter born on a military base or a U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico have nearly an impossible task just to get identification.  For some it is easier to travel to their place of birth in order to retrieve a birth certificate, but that is certainly prohibitive for homeless people.  This delay makes it difficult to find housing, a job, receiving assistance, or receive health care benefits.  This is to say nothing for the expense of coming up with the $60 for a birth certificate from Maine and $9 for a state ID in Ohio.  I have never understood if this keeps more people from voting then it reduces fraud.  Have you ever done a cost benefit analysis for any of these rules?

  1. You do realize that in person early voting fraud is extremely rare, so why can’t a person use their last four digits of the social security number to vote?
  2. If there is going to be fraud it is in the vote by mail process, but you never seem to pass any rules or audit of the vote by mail process to weed out problems.
  3. Do you know that many small counties were not following the procedures for tossing provisional ballots in 2014 with minor errors while the large urban counties were being hyper sensitive to these rules?
  4. Why is there such wide disparity in how many provisional ballots actually are counted throughout the state?  Are the rules confusing or are some counties not following the rules when the acceptance rate varies from 10% to 30% in 2014.
  5. Do you realize that some counties were tossing legitimate ballots because the voter submitted a state ID number on their request for an absentee ballot and then used the last four digits of their social security number on their early in person voting envelope and since those did not match they could not verify that information? How about correcting this problem with our system?
  6. Do you realize that homeless people cannot correct their ID problems with only 7 days notice? This is an impossible standard.  Also, why are you only given seven days notice to correct an ID problem?  Why not allow time to correct other ballot problems?
  7. If you want to reduce paperwork why not allow submission of social security number as an alternative for Election Day voting to be the same as voting by mail?
  8. Also if you want to cut down on paperwork, why not only have one piece of information to fill out with early in person voting?  Currently, you have to complete a request and then an envelope?  The problem is that with every piece of information required, there is a greater chance for a mistake.
  9. Why do you even require identification?  Has that cut down on fraud as was the original purpose or has it cut down on legitimate voting?
  10. What can we do to get more Ohioans to actually vote? 
  11. How do we cut down on the paperwork that a person has to complete in order to reduce errors and ballots being tossed in the garbage?
  12. You understand the draconian rules that you passed in 2013 made it so that Counties threw away provisional ballots because the individual did not print their name but used cursive and the election official could easily identify the name?
  13. Why don’t you clarify the rules about who can help a voter with their ballot so that a disabled or illiterate person does not have to embarrass themselves by forcing them to ask for help and identify their reason for needing help?
  14. You could spend some time clarifying the verification procedure at the local level and some of the limitation of state and county databases that make verification a problem.
  15. How about spending some time on reducing the time it takes to vote in person?  You could pass a law that if the individual has to wait for over a half hour then the local jurisdiction has to open additional polling stations including for early voting.  This would correct the problems of 2 hour waits on the last weekend before the election in many of the urban counties.  You could also allow counties to extend hours if there is a history of long waits on the weekend or open additional places for early voting that can accommodate larger numbers.  
  16. How about a discussion of the value of Golden week to homeless people and busy people who can change their address and vote at the same time? 
  17. How about putting some funds into enforcing the Motor Voter Bill so that everywhere that an individual is offered public benefits including a homeless shelter they are offered the opportunity to register to vote? 
  18. State legislators have made voting so complicated, but the training for Election Day poll workers have not kept pace.  How about helping with additional funding for more training? 
  19. Why have you never defined “other government documents” in the original identification law?  How about spending some time defining what that means? 

Even within voting there are many problems that you could address without creating new avenues for lawsuit and division.  Having registered thousands of homeless people, and having helped thousands to vote, NEOCH does not see that the reason for HB 41 and not allowing a person to use their social security number for early voting.   This will harm homeless and low income voters.  It is already a struggle to get a homeless person to feel that they are a citizen with all the rights of every other citizen while they wait in a shelter, and this proposed legislation further alienates a growing segment of our population.  We urge the committee to look at how difficult it is for citizens to obtain identification.  We urge the committee to work to get everyone to vote without these barriers.  We urge you to work to simplify voting and not create more confusion.

Brian Davis

Saturday
Apr222017

HB 41 An Attack on Early Voting

From Ohio House Member Kathleen Clyde in Portage County District 75

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) issued the following statement today after the first hearing on House Bill (HB) 41, a bill that targets Ohio’s in-person early voters with a more difficult ID requirement while leaving mail voters’ ID requirement unchanged.

“When a bill like this shows up on the committee schedule, it can look harmless. But if you scratch the surface, you see exactly who it goes after – minority voters, women voters, and Democratic voters who use in-person early voting more than other groups. While purportedly about reducing paperwork, HB 41 is really an attack on an easy voting method that many Ohioans juggling work and family like to use. I’ve served these voters and know there is no need to change the ID requirement on them.

“House Bill 41 could easily achieve a reduction in paperwork for voters and election officials without touching the identification provision. Instead the bill adds more confusion to an already very confusing part of our elections. If we really wanted to make voting streamlined for Ohio voters, we would let all Ohio voters use the same ID as our early voters – the last 4 digits of their Social Security number. That would save voters time and save counties money.”

Rep. Clyde currently serves as Ranking Member on the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, which hears elections and voting rights bills and is currently considering HB 41. Rep. Clyde ran the Franklin County In-Person Early Voting Center in the 2008 presidential election.

From a Clyde Press Release in March 2017

Tuesday
Oct252016

Correcting Ohio's Voter Purge

Correcting Ohio’s Voter Purge:
Infrequent Voters Who Were Unlawfully Purged from Ohio’s Registration Rolls
Will Be Permitted to Vote in the November 2016 General Election

Background
For years, Ohio has been removing voters from the registration rolls if they have not voted in recent years under a procedure called the “Supplemental Process,” based on the assumption that such voters have moved—an assumption that is often mistaken. In 2015, Ohio purged hundreds of thousands of infrequent voters from its rolls under this process.

These voters had last voted in 2008—a year when Ohio experienced record turnout. Many voters purged in 2015 and previous years attempted to vote in the November 2015 statewide election and the March 2016 primary only to be denied their right to vote.  In September 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which prohibits states from removing voters from the registration rolls due to the voter’s failure to vote. The Circuit Court then sent the case back to the District Court todetermine how to protect the right to vote for unlawfully purged voters in 2016. On October 19, 2016, the District Court issued an order determining how these unlawfully purged voters will be treated in the November 2016 General Election.

Which Purged Voters Will Be Eligible to Vote?
Purged voters who will be able to vote in the upcoming November General Election are those who:

  • Were purged under the Supplemental Process from 2011 to present;
  • Continue to reside in the same county where they were registered at the time that they were purged; and
  • Have not become ineligible subsequent to the time that they were purged (e.g., because of a felony conviction).

How Purged Voters Can Participate in the November Election
Voters who were unlawfully purged under the Supplemental Process will still be able to cast a vote that counts. They will need to vote in person at their county’s early voting site or at the polling location for their present address on Election Day. Such voters will be given a provisional ballot that will be counted for the November 2016 election. This ballot will also serve to re-register them at their current address.

There is one exception to the requirement that purged voters must vote in person. Purged voters who cannot vote at an early voting site or the polls because of illness or disability can contact their local boards of elections to request that a provisional ballot be delivered. In that circumstance, the board of elections will send two employees (one from each party to ensure there is no attempt to influence the voter) to deliver the ballot, provide assistance in completing it if necessary, and return the ballot to the board of elections, where it will be treated just as other ballots cast by purged voters.

Purged voters will not be able to vote by mail. Any unregistered voter who submits a vote-by-mail application will receive a notification of denial that states: “You may still cast a provisional ballot during [the] in-person absentee voting period at any appropriate early voting location or the county board of elections, or on Election Day at the correct polling place for your current address.”

The Secretary of State and county boards of elections will add information to their web tools for voters to give guidance to voters who are unable to locate their voter registration information. This guidance will inform voters: (1) that they may be able to cast a provisional ballot during early voting or on Election Day and have it counted, (2) how to contact their local board of elections, and (3) how to determine their polling location. In addition, the Secretary of State will add information to his web page for voters with disabilities concerning the voting opportunities available to such voters.


Voters can find their polling location by calling their county board of elections or searching online at:
https://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/Upload/sites/ballotTracking/ballotTracking.aspx?page=20547.

For more information see Directives 2016-39 and 2016-41 issued by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, available at http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/elections/electionsofficials/Rules.aspx.

Sunday
Oct232016

Illegally Purged Ohio Voters To Be Allowed to Vote

A Court Order Allows Voters Removed from the Rolls Under Ohio’s Controversial Voter Purge to Have
their Votes Counted in the Presidential Election

NEW YORK, NY: On Wednesday, a federal court ordered Ohio Secretary of State John Husted to allow the many thousands of infrequent voters the state has purged from the voter rolls over the last several years to vote in this year’s Presidential Election. The order protects the voting rights of Ohioans whose voter registrations were cancelled under a controversial program that was recently declared illegal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Earlier this year, the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the
Homeless (NEOCH), and Ohio voter Larry Harmon, represented by Demos and the ACLU of Ohio,
brought a legal challenge to Ohio’s purge of voters under that program, known as the Supplemental
Process, which cancelled the registrations of voters who failed to vote for a period of six years—even
voters who remained eligible to vote.

“The Supplemental Process has disproportionately removed voters of color from the registration rolls,”
said Andre Washington, president of APRI. “The right to vote—a right Americans have fought and died
for—simply cannot be treated as a use-it-or-lose-it right.”

Last month, the Sixth Circuit overturned a lower court ruling and declared that Ohio’s Supplemental
Process violated a federal law known as the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which
prohibits states from cancelling a voter’s registration merely for failing to vote for a period of time.
“Today’s order is a monumental victory for Ohio voters,” said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos.
“Even after the Sixth Circuit ruled that Ohio had violated federal law in removing infrequent voters from
the rolls, Secretary Husted would have denied thousands of eligible Ohioans the right to vote. We are
gratified that the court recognized that broader relief was required to protect the rights of Ohio voters.
Now those voters will be able to cast a ballot and have it counted in the upcoming election.”

The appeals court’s decision, issued on September 23, 2016, sent the case back to the lower court to craft a remedy that would halt the Supplemental Process and prevent voters who have been purged from being denied their right to vote. On Wednesday the District Court issued an order that requires the state to allowinfrequent voters to cast their ballots this November.

“Just last year, Ohio cancelled the voter registrations of hundreds of thousands of infrequent voters, and
we anticipate many of them will come to the polls in November with no idea they have been purged.
Yesterday’s order ensures these Ohio voters will be able to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio. “We are encouraging voters across the State of Ohio to take the time to cast a provisional ballot if they find that their names are not on the registration rolls when they turn up to vote.”

Under the Court’s order, the State must:

  • update websites maintained by the Ohio Secretary of State and county boards of elections informvoters who may have been purged under the Supplemental Process that they may be able to vote by provisional ballot and have their ballots counted this November;
  • provide online and telephonic tools for purged voters to find out the polling location and precinct where they should go vote;
  • inform purged voters who apply to vote-by-mail that they may cast a provisional ballot at their early voting site or on Election Day; and
  • treat any provisional ballot cast in-person by a purged voter who has not moved or who has moved within the same county the same as if the voter were still registered.

“The Court’s action is a huge win for housing insecure, homeless, and other traditionally marginalized
voters,” said Brian Davis, Executive Director at NEOCH. “Because housing-insecure and homeless voters
often face obstacles getting to the polls, these voters are more likely to have been targeted by the
Supplemental Process, removed from Ohio’s registration rolls, and denied their right to vote. The order
will help ensure that the voices of these often under-represented voters are heard this November.”
The Court’s order applies only to the 2016 Presidential Election. The Court instructed the parties to
submit a schedule for additional proceedings on a permanent resolution of the lawsuit after the election.

###
ABOUT DEMOS
Demos is a public policy organization working for an America where we all have an equal say in our
democracy and an equal chance in our economy.


MEDIA CONTACT
Liz Flowers
Communications Consultant

Monday
Oct102016

Fighting Against Literacy Test in Voting in Ohio

by Megan Shanklin

This spring, NEOCH, along with the Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the Ohio Attorney General regarding Ohio’s laws on counting absentee and provisional ballots. S.B. 205 and 216, which the Ohio General Assembly passed and Governor Kasich signed into law in 2014, added address and birthdate fields to the provisional- and absentee-ballot forms, reduced from ten to seven days the post-election time that provisional voters had to show proper identification and that absentee voters had to correct mistakes, and prohibited poll workers from filling out affirmation forms and identification envelopes unless assisting someone who explicitly asked for help on the basis of disability or illiteracy. Moreover, S.B. 205 and 216 imposed “perfect form” requirements, requiring elections boards to reject absentee and provisional ballots with any errors or omissions in the identification information, even when the voter’s eligibility could be determined. In 2014 and 2015, over 4,000 ballots were discarded because of such errors.

On June 7th, 2016, district court Judge Algenon Marbley agreed with NEOCH that these laws unconstitutionally violated voters’ rights. Secretary of State Husted appealled the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and oral arguments for the appeal took place on August 4th. We are still awaiting the appeals court ruling, but for now, the laws have been overturned. We are particularly grateful to our attorneys,[1] who put a lot of work into making sure that Ohio citizens retain our right to vote. I recently talked to one of our attorneys, Sandhya Gupta of The Chandra Law Firm LLC, about the case.

M.S: How much time went into prepping for this case? And what does preparation for a case like this entail?

S.G: A lot of time went into preparing for the case. After the district court Judge Marbley granted our motion for leave to file our supplemental complaint in August 2015, we quickly filed the complaint and then were on an expedited schedule to make sure that everything could be fully litigated and decided by November 2016, the presidential election. The process of discovery started, including sending document requests to the Defendants and subpoenas to many county boards of elections around Ohio. From the elections boards, we requested ballot applications from the 2014 and 2015 general elections. We went back and forth with the boards a lot and finally worked it out so that they provided the rejected ballot forms—both absentee and provisional. Some counties also gave us ballot forms that had been accepted and thus counted. Then, from January 2016 to March 2016, members of our legal team conducted many depositions of county Board officials. In the meantime, Defendants also sent Plaintiffs discovery requests, both document requests and interrogatories, to which we had to respond. The legal team also defended the depositions that the Defendants took of NEOCH executive director Brian Davis, Columbus Coalition for the Homeless board member Donald Strasser, and an Ohio Democratic Party representative.

As part of the process of fact-gathering, we also reached out to voters whose ballots had been rejected for the reasons we were challenging in the lawsuit. Some voters to whom we spoke were willing to testify at trial, but ultimately, after reaching an agreement with the Defendants, we obtained and submitted the voters' signed declarations in place of their oral testimony. 

Because of the expedited schedule, the discovery period ran right up against the start of trial, which started in mid-March and lasted over two weeks. During trial, the legal team worked each day to prepare the order of witnesses for the following day, prepare for and conduct the witness examinations, work with defense counsel to agree on which exhibits would be admitted, and the like. These were long days. 

The judge issued a decision in early June. At that point, the Defendants decided to appeal the judge's ruling; Plaintiffs cross-appealled. Briefing and oral argument were completed on an expedited schedule. The oral argument took place in Cincinnati on Thursday, August 4. 

M.S: If you could sum it up, what was your main argument against S.B. 205 and 216?

S.G: We had several arguments, but the main one was that provisional- and absentee-ballot voters' ballots should not be disqualified on the basis of minor mistakes and omissions, when those voters' identities could otherwise be verified. We argued that such disqualification was unconstitutional, because it put a severe burden on the fundamental right to vote without a sufficient state interest. We also argued that the requirement for full and accurate completion of the forms imposed a literacy test, which the Voting Rights Act prohibits. And we argued that the laws violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, because they disparately affected racial-minority voters.

In addition, we argued that S.B.205 and 216 violated due process by shortening the period after the election for people to correct mistakes on their ballot forms (from 10 days to 7 days), and by failing to give provisional voters notice of any mistakes. (Provisional voters were also unable to correct any errors other than lack of ID.) And we argued that the laws wrongly prohibited poll workers from helping voters fill out their ballot forms. Under the law, poll workers were permitted to help a voter fill out his/her form only if that voter asked for such assistance on the basis of blindness, disability, or illiteracy. We argued such assistance should not be restricted to a situation where someone asks on these bases. And it did not make sense to us that in order for a voter to know to ask for help on the basis of blindness and illiteracy, that voter would have to be able to read the sign that said so!

M.S: What was the defense’s justification of the laws?

S.G: The defense had no justification for why provisional and absentee ballots had to be thrown out on the basis of minor errors or omissions on the forms if a voter's identity could otherwise be verified. Defendants tried to rely on the positive aspects of asking for the five-fields information, for example, the fact that including this information on a provisional-ballot form could help register a voter for the next election, or that it could help locate a voter in the database. But these reasons did not explain why a registered voter's ballot had to be thrown out if a board could still identify the person. These reasons were also insufficient because they did not apply to absentee-ballot envelopes: absentee-ballot voters had already established their eligibility when filing out the initial application.

M.S: What were the actual effects of S.B. 205 and 216? Did these deviate from the intended effects?

S.G: As a result of the requirement in S.B.205 and 216 that provisional and absentee ballots could only be counted if the five fields were all filled out fully and accurately, thousands of ballots were thrown out in 2014 and 2015 without regard for whether the voter's identity could be verified with the information that was present and correct.

As for whether the effects deviated from the intended effects, we argued that the legislature did intend to disenfranchise people with these laws—specifically, racial minorities. Not only did we have testimony from a legislator stating that one of the supporter-legislators made racist remarks when the various election bills were being discussed, but also there was other indirect evidence that we believe, when taken as a whole, showed the legislature intended these discriminatory effects. 

We also argued there was intentional discrimination in how the Secretary of State implemented the law, including the fact that the Secretary took no action to investigate or correct the fact that larger, urban, more minority counties were disenfranchising their voters for errors that smaller, rural, more white counties were not. 

M.S: Can you expand on the inconsistency in the application of the law from county to county?

S.G: Among the counties that we examined in this case, boards of elections in smaller, rural counties, with greater populations of white voters, were more relaxed about counting ballots with five-fields errors than those in larger, more urban counties with greater populations of racial-minority voters. Thus, for example, if a voter had a mistake in her street number or street name, or accidentally put in the current date instead of her date of birth, and regarding many other types of errors, boards in those smaller counties would still count the ballot, while boards in the larger counties would reject the ballot. The Secretary of State's office admitted under cross-examination at trial that the Secretary never bothered to investigate this inconsistency of application. 

M.S: Judge Marbley ruled that the laws violated the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. Can you explain what that means?

S.G: The district court found the laws violated the 14th amendment because they caused a heavy burden on the fundamental right to vote without a sufficiently good reason. Specifically, this means voters who vote by provisional ballot or absentee ballot should not have their ballot thrown out just because they didn't complete the form perfectly, when those voters are otherwise qualified and their identity can be verified.

The Voting Rights Act prohibits voting laws that have a discriminatory effect on members of a protected minority group. Here, the district court concluded that the laws disproportionately burdened African-Americans, and that that burden was in part linked to the ongoing effects of past discrimination. 

M.S: How is this case related to recent cases in other states about voting rights, including North Dakota, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin? (http://www.neoch.org/voting-events/2016/8/2/voter-id-laws-struck-down-in-four-states.html) Why do cases like this seem to be so prevalent right now?

S.G: Some of the cases brought elsewhere raise some of the same types of claims we do—for example, claims under the Voting Rights Act, claims of intentional discrimination, claims of undue burden. While the specific state-law provisions that are being challenged in those cases are different from what we're challenging in this litigation, the trends in efforts to suppress the vote are strikingly similar. 

As for why these cases are so prevalent right now: both the North Carolina and Texas laws went into effect soon, if not immediately, after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, removing the requirement that states with a history of discrimination first get Justice Department approval before enacting any changes in voting laws. That meant that states like North Carolina and Texas became free to do what they wanted, and the legislatures in those states lost no time passing restrictive voting laws that disproportionately affected (and/or had the intent to discriminate against) racial minorities. Other states like Wisconsin and Ohio, led by Republican legislatures, also passed restrictive laws around the same time. The laws were challenged, and now those challenges have made their way through the appellate courts.

M.S. Wrap-up: Literacy tests were outlawed 51 years ago by the Voting Rights Act because they were demonstrated to be obstacles preventing people of color from voting. Despite this, in 2014, Ohio’s legislature passed laws that disenfranchised people who failed to read and follow written directions perfectly. It is extremely disturbing to say the least that tactics from the past are being used now in the 21st century to disenfranchise citizens. We are so thankful for Ms. Gupta and the rest of the legal team who worked so hard to fight against these 2014 literacy tests and protect the right to vote for Ohio’s citizens. We are hopeful that the appeals-court judges will agree with Judge Marbley and we can go into the upcoming November elections knowing that Ohio’s voters cannot be arbitrarily denied their right to vote.


[1] Subodh Chandra and Sandhya Gupta of The Chandra Law Firm LLC (Cleveland) and Caroline Gentry and Ana Crawford of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP (Dayton) represent NEOCH and CCH. Don McTigue and Derek Clinger of McTigue & Colombo LLC (Columbus) represent the Ohio Democratic Party.