Daniel Tokaji--OSU Professor of Law and expert on voting
Professor Tokaji testified in opposition to the HB 194 in Ohio, which he identified as the "wrong direction." He was especially critical of limiting early voting and eliminating the ability to vote on Sunday at the Board of Elections offices, because African American and Hispanic voters turn out on Sundays. He was concerned that allowing poll workers the choice to direct people to the correct precinct is "essentially giving poll workers the discretion to discriminate." Professor Tokaji said that as many as 40,000 provisional ballots did not even get counted in the last election that probably should have been counted. He said, "We should be making it easier not more difficult to vote."
David Arrendondo--Lorain Community College International Student Services Director and Lorain County Republican Party Vice Chair and a member of Romney for President
The Republican members of the committee (who did not attend) were able to select witnesses to appear, and the first to speak was David Arrendondo of Lorain County. He spoke in support of the Ohio legislation as a way to provide "fair and honest elections for everyone." Arrendondo did not have a problem with identification to protect against "fraud." He called for a more uniform system of voting across the United States as was described in the Motor Voter Law of the 1990s. He was concerned about college students with multiple registrations. It was unclear if he indicated that a college student he knew was encouraged to vote even though he was a foreign national and had no legal right to vote or Arrendondo was saying that this student had been offered the chance to register and was unsure about the rules. This was the basis of his support for identification because it would assure that only US citizens were voting. Arrendondo repeatedly cited Mexico as an example of a democracy that knows how to administer an election. Evidently, they do not allow early voting and a sizable majority vote on the same Sunday in Mexico. He never explained, however, why he supported eliminating Sunday voting in Ohio if it is so popular in Mexico. Arrendondo also mentioned Iraq as an example of an electoral process that Americans could use as a model. He indicated that if there are any fraud in the system it casts doubt on the whole foundation of democracy.
Carrie Davis of the ACLU and the League of Women Voters in Ohio.
Before summarizing her testimony we have to disclose that Carrie represented NEOCH in a voting rights case upholding Golden Week in 2008. She characterized the Ohio, Florida, Georgia and other state law changes as an "unprecedented attack" on voting rights. She worried about another disputed national election, and identified all these rule changes as "suppression activities." From voter ID laws to the shortening of early voting, she went through each of these changes and pointed out their flaws. All these changes in the law coupled with the county cuts to boards of elections carries a tremendous risk that we will see long lines and problems at the precincts as we experienced in 2004. Davis called for more voter education activities and poll worker training to avoid the problems we saw in previous elections.
Dale Fellows: Lake County Republican Party Chair and past President of the Association of Elections Officials in Ohio
Fellows is another selection of Minority Chair of the committee Lindsey Graham. Fellows indicated that the Association of Elections officials had issued a report on voting in Ohio and that was the basis of the changes from HB 194. He does not agree with all of the law that was passed, but there is a lot of it that will be halpful. He defended closing the weekend before the election because Board members and in smaller counties employees need to get ready for the Tuesday vote and do not have time to also conduct early voting. He somehow justified the provision of the law that allowed poll workers to not tell people the correct precinct as a liability issue. I cannot explain this, and when questioned by Senator Brown neither could he. He asked that instead of fighting this law, people should volunteer to work the polls so there will not be problems in this election. Fellows was also only interested in fair and honest elections, and was concerned about the disjointed system that exists currently.
Greg Moore of the NAACP National Voter Fund and the Ohio Fair Elections Campaign.
Moore championed the effort by black clergy to get enough signatures to block HB 194. He mentioned the lines experienced in the big cities on Sunday to show the need for 35 days early voting. Moore said that the Ohio legislature was in full retreat over this voting bill. He urged Ohio legislators to listen to the will of the people and overturn the entire HB 194 including reinstatement of early voting on the weekend before the election.
Questions for the witnesses.
Durbin mentioned that fraud is extremely rare and asked Arrendondo if he has recommended prosecution for voting fraud. Arrendondo said that the County Prosecutor refused to prosecute cases of voter fraud. Arrendondo continued to insist that despite all the problems with government corruption in Mexico, they knew how to run fair and fraud free elections. At one point, this defense of Mexico as a bastion of voting utopia did elicit a laugh from the audience. Davis insisted that by closing the boards of elections the final weekend before an election that would just force the 100,000 who took advantage of that time in 2010 to vote on election day. This would be fine except many communities have had to cut back on precincts and election workers due to budget cuts. One of the Republican defenders of Ohio reform law did say that the Board of Election's staff are overworked especially in small counties and they need to print the voting list to distribute to the precincts so that they will know who has already voted.
Senator Brown countered that the 2010 election was the least eventful of the elections over the last 10 years in Ohio, and so why the need for a change? He received no response to this rhetorical question. Senator Durbin questioned the witnesses about "fraud" in the system. He challenged anyone to explain why a person would vote multiple times throughout the state on election day if those two, three or four votes would not make any difference in the big picture, but that multiple voter could go to jail for up to five years. Professor Tokaji talked about the disproportionate impact on minority voting all these rules have on turnout. He mentioned the long lines in traditionally African American neighborhoods. He equated the shut down of early voting the weekend before the election as the same as a department story shutting down the last three days before Christmas. Arrendondo wanted consistency in the voting process, and so all counties should mail early voting request forms to assure that Congressional elections which cross counties are fair. There was also some discussion about the attempt to ban notification by the Boards of Elections about the option to vote by mail, and how this only depresses the vote. Professor Tokaji said that early voting was more secure because there is more time to verify the validity of those votes. No one on the panel could point to any example of fraud during Golden Week, and yet this was eliminated in the legislation passed by the Ohio State legislature.
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