Senator Brown Asks for DOJ Help on Voting

Ohio citizens have struggled to vote since 2005 when the ID requirements were added.  We fundamentally changed the role of the Secretary of State in Ohio from a position of figuring out ways to encourage voting to a place of restricting access.  We got "challengers" stationed at the precincts by the political parties to step forward and question the validity of voters.  We confused the role of the workers at the polling places from helpers to enforcers.  They were trained to be suspicious of all those who come in the door and ask them to prove who they were.  Workers got into the level of detail to try to figure out why an address on an identification does not match the address in the polling book. 

We did get the ability to ask for an absentee ballot without a reason.  We also got extended time to vote by absentee ballot and the wonderful Golden Week.  These were two improvements in the voting rights of Ohioans.  While we were safeguarding in person voting, we were actually making it easier for cheaters to tampering with the voting process in Ohio.  It is very difficult to vote multiple times in person.  There is travel and memorizing information from all these different people throughout the city.  It is unlikely that those who want to cast bogus ballots would pretend to be voters by traveling around the city.  It is much more likely that a criminal would send in bogus absentee ballots which Ohio ironically made a lot easier since 2005. 

We have also have made the federal and state judges the de-facto overseer of elections in Ohio.   We have had so many challenges to the voting process in Ohio it is staggering.  The legislature never goes back to work with both sides to fix the problems.  They just keeping digging deeper holes.  The State and Secretary of State has been challenged by students, older folks, homeless people, naturalized citizens, churches, minority groups, and good government groups.  All this from changing the role of the Secretary of State's role to be gatekeeper instead of facilitator.  They no longer work to encourage voting and get as many people as possible to vote to a new role as keeping people from voting and helping "the right" people to cast a ballot. 

NEOCH has sued the State regularly since 2006 to preserve the right of homeless people to vote.  We have largely been successful and have had regular consent decrees with the State of Ohio.  We have lost a number of times, but we have had to spend hundreds of hours in court to assure that low income people do not face the humiliation of showing up to vote, being challenged, and having their vote not count. 

Senator Sherrod Brown has asked the US Justice Department to intervene to protect Ohio voters.  He has asked the DOJ to investigate as authorized by the Voting Rights Law.

"Ohio has a long history of election problems...While these changes have helped to increase turnout, in recent years there have been numerous attempts to limit access to the ballot."

We agree with everything in the letter and hope that the Justice Department takes up this investigation.  We have created a page on our website to keep this letter.  With the decision by the Justice Department to intervene on the criminalization in Boise Idaho, we are hopeful that the Loretta Lynch Justice Department will take a serious look at Ohio's efforts to restrict access to voting.  We will keep you informed about the outcome. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinions of those who sign the entry.

Clevelanders Angry About the Police

The Cleveland City Council have promised a listening session around the City to talk about the Justice Department report issued two weeks ago regarding Cleveland Police Department.  If last night was any indication, they need to be prepared for a great deal of anger and a lot of pent up frustration.  I attended the Justice Department listening session led by US Attorney Steven Dettelbach at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. 

Maybe it was not the best idea to have this discussion so close to Imperial Avenue where police neglect of a community became painfully clear.  Or that there were relatives of Tamir Rice  sitting in the audience and frustrated that this report does not address the injustice that happened at Cudell Recreation Center. Or maybe to hold a meeting so close to the time of the weekend March on Washington with many from Cleveland having attended and were empowered by hundreds of thousands marching.   It seemed to me that no one has given residents of Cleveland the chance to talk about the police for a very long time, and this report opened the flood gates.

There were so many people who wanted to ask questions that we never got to a discussion about remedies or solutions.  Dettelbach has promised to come back to talk about the components of the agreement.  There was a question that came up about why the 2002 agreement was not successful.  The last agreement was voluntary, had a limited time horizon (1 year) and did not have an outside monitor was the reason that it did not work according to the current US Attorney.  Some of the highlights or lowlights from the discussion was that the CPD were using force including striking people with their guns as a form of punishment.  There was a great deal of discussion about racial profiling by uniformed officers.  Many in the audience felt that police were guilty of crimes up to and including the murder of a number of citizens.  There was a large amount of criticism of the Fourth Police District especially the Vice Squad at the meeting. 

Dettelbach had a Justice Department employee discuss the agreements in other cities especially Seattle with their police as an example of what could happen here.  The Seattle agreement does not expire until the City can prove that it is free of all of these constitutional violations for two years, but in a larger sense there will have to be a permanent change.  The Justice Department is requiring changes in the law that will last longer than the agreement.  For example, an elected and appointed independent civilian review board must be created in law to oversee police policy and use of deadly force. 

NEOCH and homeless people are concerned since this entire Justice Department involvement started when Cleveland Police killed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, two homeless people, over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012.  The Homeless Congress talked about the report and has made some recommendations that we will be discussing more fully in the future.

  1. Appointing liaisons to the homeless/domestic violence community from each of the districts who will receive additional training.
  2. Asking that the officers working private security (esp. at the shelters) not be allowed to wear their badge and uniform from the City of Cleveland.  This creates confusion and mistrust of the officers.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.