Another Nice Sound of Ideas on Voting

This morning on WCPN 90.3 was another good Sound of Ideas radio program on voting rights in Ohio.   Mike McIntyre did a good job trying to move beyond the spin and talking points regarding the big changes taking place in Ohio regarding voting.  It was nice that he asked Secretary of State Jon Husted my question that I submitted about the market wanting weekend voting and Golden Week voting so why won't government respond to the people instead of saying we have to respond to government?   He also asked Subodh's question about disenfranchisement of African American voters in large urban communities.   We never got to hear a debate about large populations like Cuyahoga County not being able to get the 700,000 registered voters through the lines when we have the same hours as the 14,000 voters in Van Wert County.  The reason that these have been local decisions is that each jurisdiction is not the same, and may want to serve their voters with additional hours or multiple vote by mail contacts if that is what "we the people" demand. 

This does not allow equal access to the early voting because it is not fair to to only be open 16 hours on Saturday in Cuyahoga County when tens of thousands want to cast a vote while only a couple dozen want to cast a Saturday ballot in some of the smaller counties.  Why should a Cuyahoga County voter have to wait in a two hour line because there is just not enough space within the building while a Holmes County voter can walk in and cast a ballot without waiting?  Carrie Davis of the League of Women voters did a good job in defending broad access to the ballot box without all these restrictions.  She advocated for serving the people in the way that they want to vote.  If thousands want to vote in the evening in Cuyahoga County then why not allow that?   If 50 counties feel it is too expensive to be open in the evening why should those restrictions carry the day?   We pay high taxes in Cuyahoga County and we want to be able to vote when it is convenient to vote.  Most want government to be accommodating to the voters.

Dale Fellows from Lake County kept making the point that the professional bureacrats know better than the voters.  The Boards of Election officials are smarter than the voters of Ohio.  He also repeatedly attempted to deceive the listeners that if Democrats had their way there would not be Golden Week because they had voted against the 2005 law.   This was incorrect since there was not a separate vote on Golden Week in the legislature.  There was a horrible bill that included voter ID provisions, restrictions on naturalized citizens and other problems that resulted in many court cases from the 2005 law.  The overall bill was confusing and a poor piece of legislation but it did contain one improvement in the process with no fault early voting.  Democrats did not support the overall bill, but I am sure would have supported a stand alone early voting bill. 

We have posted more details in the new restrictions on provisional voting here.   We also posted a one page on the changes that were made recently in Ohio in the voting law from the Ohio League of Women Voters. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Early Voting Has Begun

For homeless people the easiest way to vote is in person at the Board of Elections for early voting. NEOCH encourages homeless people to vote in person at the Board of Elections early.   To request an early voting ballot by mail click here.  It is much easier because just like voting by mail you do not have to show identification.  The hours for early voting are:

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, October 7, 2013, through Friday, November 1, 2013;
• 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Saturday, November 2, 2013;
• 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sunday, November 3, 2013;

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, November 4, 2013.

Despite what people think, it is not easy to get identification.  There was a letter to the editor on September in the Plain Dealer by Michael Tracy who was trying to help his 84 year old Army veteran father a state ID. 

"Last month, I took my infirm father to the Bureau of Moter Vehicles to get a state ID.  We had a Social Security card, a Medicare card, a valid out of state driver's license, a credit card, tax records, bank statements, etc.  This was insufficient to receive a state ID.

The problem was the gentleman need proof of citizenship (passport or birth certificate).   The letter goes on to explain the circular logic in the world of identification in which he needed an state ID to receive a copy of his birth certificate, but to receive a State ID he needed a birth certificate.  Tracy summed it up with, " Even in difficult times, shouldn't our government bureacracies still work for the people who need them the most?"

While people are struggling to get identification and have a hard time voting, the State Legislature is working on a package of "reform" that will make it more difficult for this 84 Army veteran to vote and will make it more inconvenient in Ohio to vote. There are three bills introduced by Representative John Becker.  Below are the comments from the Ohio Fair Elections Network.

House Bill 250

The Ohio Fair Elections Network, a coalition of national, state and local fair elections advocates, decried the introduction of H.B. 250, a bill seeking to limit Ohio’s early vote period from 35 days to 17 days. The bill was introduced by Representative John Becker (R-Union Township), and currently has only 3 co-sponsors.

In 2011, the legislature passed remarkably similar restrictions to early voting in H.B. 194. Over 300,000 Ohioans signed a petition to referendum H.B. 194, which temporarily stopped the law from going into effect. Greg Moore of Fair Elections Ohio recalled, “the legislature then took the extraordinary step of repealing H.B. 194 before it went before the voters. He questioned, “if the legislature recognized that severe cuts to early voting were so unpopular in 2012, why resurrect the same bad idea a year later?”

Deidra Reese of Ohio Voice noted the popularity of early voting among both voters and Boards of Elections. “Early voting is convenient and flexible enough to accommodate the busiest of voters’ schedules. She added, it’s also well-liked by Boards of Elections because it is a cost-saving measure that eases congestion in the polling place, and reduces stress on poll workers and voting machines.”

House Bill 266

H.B. 266 was introduced in September.  According to the summary the bill's purpose is to: generally prohibit the mailing of unsolicited election forms and prepayment of postage for the return of election forms and to clarify that a board of elections is responsible to send and receive absent voter's ballot materials.

It permits the SoS to mail registration forms and absentee ballots unsolicited, but prohibits county BOEs from doing so.

The full text can be found here

House Bill 263

The Ohio Fair Elections Network, a coalition of national, state and local fair elections advocates, criticized the latest election bills introduced by Representative John Becker (R-Union Township). House Bill 263 narrowly sets early voting hours from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and prohibits early voting on evenings and
weekends. A second bill, H.B. 266, prohibits county boards of elections from using their own discretion to send absentee ballots to all registered voters in the county. In addition, H.B. 266 prevents public assistance agencies from sending unsolicited voter registration applications, a possible violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The limits on the hours for early voting proposed in H.B. 266, is compounded by the limits on the days for early voting proposed in H.B. 263, which would cut early voting in half from 35 days to 17 days.

Camille Wimbish of Ohio Voice said, “Early voting is very popular in Ohio. In the last weekend before the 2012 election, over 60,000 votes were cast across all counties.” She questioned, “Why would Rep. Becker attempt to restrict the days and hours of early voting, when it will certainly make if more difficult for voters to have access to the ballot box?”  Rep. Becker’s claim that the proposed cuts to early voting will result in cost-savings is also in dispute. Franklin County Board of Elections Member Zach Manifold stated, “The convenience and flexibility of early voting has allowed counties to save a tremendous amount of money through precinct consolidation.

This legislation will reverse those cost- savings, as fewer people voting early will require more election staff, poll workers, and voting machines on Election Day.” He noted, “Additionally, this legislation will force small counties that only needed part time hours to meet the early voting demands of their voters, to spend significantly more taxpayer money to stay open full-time.

Others voiced concerns about the impact of preventing public assistance agencies from mailing voter registration applications to low income citizens. Norman Robbins of the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates observed, “This prohibition only exacerbates the disparity between applicants at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, where applicants must refuse a pre-filled registration form, and low-income applicants for public assistance benefits, who must fill out a complete form, often in the middle of a family crisis.” He noted, “This bill would increase the number of costly provisional ballots by making changes-of-address more difficult for the very people who move the most.” He added, “Not only does H.B. 266 send a harmful message that voting rights are not equal among Ohio’s poor, but the bill likely violates federal law.”

There is a Mayor's race, city council races, a Library levy and the Health and Human Services Levy.  There are school district levies and municipal judges up for election.

Go Out and Vote!!

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Do We Need Early Voting?

Thank you, Ohio legislators for protecting us from having to get up from our Playstations on the weekend to go vote!  We are so glad that you are saving us from President Obama who spent time and resources in Ohio to open up weekend voting so that we will have less time to spend with our families on that weekend before the election in 2014.   We "support" State Representative John Becker's effort to cut down on early voting because 35 days is just too tempting to try to vote multiple times with so many days available. Ohioans may vote the first week in October and then forget and try to vote again on Election Day.  Why should we make it easy for people to vote?  As Becker has stated he wants to make it easier for Boards of Election employees so they can focus on getting ready for the election.  It should be a chore that is very difficult to accomplish with long wait times so that the "I Voted Today" sticker is a badge of honor. The sticker should be more of metal that shows the citizen did some work and planned for a long wait.  They shouldn't just give those out to anyone who walks up to a table and marks a few chicken scratches on a piece of paper. 

It was "chaotic" over at the Board of Elections office with hundreds of thousands taking advantage of the only weekend hours available in 2012.  So, instead of expanding weekend voting it makes sense to just eliminate all early voting.  Why else do we open our Boards of Elections offices for voting except to make it easy for those employees?  We don't want to put any stress or pressure on these trained employees or the hundreds of temporary employees added for that month?  After all, Becker was elected to represent the best interest of County employees as he showed in his consecutive votes to decimate local and county State funding.  The pain of massive budget cuts will only make them stronger, but at least they won't need to work on the weekend of 2014.  All county workers helping with voting deserve the same peaceful and quiet time of the employees of Becker's Claremont County board of elections.  We should set voting hours and state wide voting policy based on what is best for the staff of the rural boards of elections in Ohio. 

Thank you for protecting Ohio citizens from themselves who were confused about when to vote and went out by the thousands to vote early.  We go to church or synagogue on Saturday or Sunday and we should only vote on Tuesdays.  Thanks for making it harder for homeless people so that they see the value of voting since 77% of the people we registered in the summer of 2012 voted between Friday November 2 and Monday November 5, 2012.   It is better to wait in an eight hour line like they did in 2004 in Oberlin and Wooster rather than wait in a two hour line like they did in 2012 in many big cities in Ohio, because you cannot really get to know your neighbor in only two hours.  There are college and professional football games to watch on the weekend in October and November.  Thank you Representative Becker for saving us from having to vote on the weekend.  You really should think about running for governor since this legislation benefits all Ohioans, and not just those in your home community. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of only those who sign the entry.

A Huge Setback in the Struggle for Civil Rights in America

Homeless people in Ohio care about voting rights and the Voting Rights Act.  In Cleveland, around 78% of the homeless population are African American, and there are similar numbers in most of the large American cities.  The VRA is important because homeless people do vote, and NEOCH has always made voting a priority issue.   We have been engaged in a lawsuit with the State of Ohio over identification issues since 2006, and we are working to extend that lawsuit for the next few years to protect access to voting in person on Election Day for those without identification in the statewide election of 2014 and the national 2016 Presidential Election. 

On June 25, 2013, the United States Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was overwhelmingly renewed by Congress in 2006.  According to the Supreme Court across the United States we have fulfilled the goals of equal access to the ballot box and the main section of the Voting Rights Act is not needed.  This despite the mountain of evidence that communities regularly purge voter roles (sometimes in error) thus cancelling the registrations of minority voters or reducing polling places in certain neighborhoods forcing minority votes to wait hours to cast a ballot. This law has often been viewed as one of the most successful in American history and maintains strong support in most of the United States.  While the issue before the court will have dramatic impact on the nine Southern states who had a history of poll taxes, suppression, and manipulation of the voting laws to disenfranchise voters, it will weaken minority voting power across the United States. 

We have seen dramatic increases since 1998 in gerrymandering, limiting voter registration activities, disenfranchising felons, and limiting voting by putting in place restrictions directed at minority and low income voters such as ID requirements.  With super computers never envisioned in 1965 now able to carve up districts in order to push all minorities into a small number of districts, it is much easier to discriminate in the voting booth.  For example, the mostly white Ohio state legislature divided up the state into four minority federal Congressional districts such as the one that meanders across Toledo all along the lake to expand again into Cleveland or the one which starts on the east side of Cleveland and then moves down to Akron in order to blunt the impact of minority voters.  These nine states with a history of voting shenanigans as recently as 2012 will not have to ask the Justice department to make any changes in voting procedures or laws, and it will be necessary for a disenfranchised voter to go to court after they were denied the chance to vote. They will have to prove in court that the identification laws, purging of the voter roles, or moving of a polling place to a distant part of the ward is based on a racist motivation.  Having struggled with the state for years on the ID lawsuit, we know what a big hurdle this is to sustain over six years.   How many will have access to attorneys who are willing to stick with this for a decade with little shot of compensation in the end. 

The US Supreme Court overturned a law repeatedly passed by the legislative branch and supported by the every President since 1965.  They declared that Congress needs to update the law with new maps knowing that in a dysfunctional Congress this will be impossible.  They know that no state will want to be put on this list that they have to get clearance from the Justice Department before changing state or local voting rules.  The Supreme Court did not accept that there was a way for a community to petition to be let out of the oversight if they could prove they have not engaged in racist behavior for 10 years.  Instead of keeping the law in place while Congress made changes, they threw open the door to allow any voter suppression activity to be passed by mostly white state legislatures.  These former Confederate states can then put state resources into defending these voter disenfranchisement activities in court against individual challenges. 

Maybe this will prompt Congress to adjust the pre-coverage maps to include all the states that have engaged in racist voting laws.  Maybe states like Ohio which have reduced the power of minority voters will be included in a future voting law.  Maybe there will be renewed effort to get a national voting law in place to protect voters access to the polls everywhere.  Maybe the Palestinian conflict will be resolved.  Maybe the dreams of Tiananmen Square will be realized.  Maybe West Virginia officials will accept a carbon tax and realize coal is a dirty form of energy.  All of these seem impossible at this point in our history, but who would have ever predicted that Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi would be serving in her country's legislature and Muammar al Gaddafi would be violently overthrown.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Identification Did Not Stop Election Problems

Secretary of State Jon Husted released a press report on problems in the 2012 Presidential election with 135 cases referred to law enforcement for follow up.  There were 5.6 million voters in Ohio, and in the six months since the election they found 135 people who may have done something illegal.  This includes 20 people who may have voted in multiple states.   Here is the crucial information from the Husted's press release

County boards of elections have referred voters to local law enforcement for double voting, voting for other people (including for those who had passed away before Election Day) and for voting from an address from which they were not eligible. It is worth noting that in a majority of the cases in which a voter was found to have cast multiple ballots in Ohio, only one of those ballots was ultimately counted.

There are no real details in this release of information.  It is just a chart with all 88 counties listed and  their results of the search of their voters to see if there was any irregularities.   There are no specifics and not even an explanation of what they were looking for specifically.   I could not find one piece of information on the Cuyahoga County website on these referrals to the Attorney General, which is strange since the largest number of referrals came from Cuyahoga County.   15 of the referrals came from Cuyahoga County matched only by Delaware County in referrals to the Attorney General for further investigation.   It was strange that Lorain County reported that there were 147 in their County with only 625 total irregularities in the whole state.   What does "voting from an address from which they were not eligible" mean exactly?  Does this mean if a person moved in July 2012 but did not inform the Board of Elections then voted by provisional ballot on Election Day?  

I will bet that in the end there will be around one dozen actual crimes that occured in the last election.   But by the time the smoke clears in a year the story will be long forgotten, and the politicians won't care.  The fact is that the identification provisions of the law did not prevent these "fraud" cases.  They cannot prevent people from voting in two different locations from a previous address.  ID does not prevent people from sending in multiple ballots by mail from multiple locations.  They don't prevent voting by mail for a partner who died.  Most of the mistakes made with people voting multiple times can be prevented without forcing people to show ID.  And most of the mistakes are made through the mail not by in person voting.  Yet, the state has put in place obstacles that create hardship for the voter and not security for the ballot box.

I don't understand why there wasn't a greater emphasis on how secure the vote was in 2012 in this release.  Despite all the talk and surveys about massive fraud, it played no role in the vote.  Out of 5.6 million voters, I am sure that in the end we will see mostly clerical errors.  There will be incorrect sign in at the polling place or incorrect registration information listed because of a the poor penmanship of the voter.  Proving fraud or willful attempts to undermine the one vote per citizen is a hard hill to climb.  There was certainly no attempt to sway the election with only 135 referrals in the entire state of Ohio.  In this day and age it is very difficult to change the vote through multiple voting or fraudulent registrations.  With computer scans and the ability to sort data it is a not easy to get this past a local board of elections.  Most errors are flushed from the system within the first 10 days.  This release proves that the election was secure and most of the activity to protect in-person voting was a waste of time. 

I don't understand how this statement can be justified from the charts that were released, "Based on reports from the counties, no voters were denied ballots and zero referrals have been made as a result of voters claiming suppression."   This could not be teased out from the information submitted by a local board.  Many boards including Cuyahoga County wanted to open every weekend possible, but were denied by the Secretary of State.  This seems like a voter suppression activity.   For the full time worker who does not have a car and does not trust the vote by mail, they are stuck waiting in a long line on the weekend before the election.  This seems like a suppression activity engaged in by the Secretary of State who favored rural county voters over urban and suburban voters.  How would that discouraged voter who did not stick around for the hour and a half wait submit his voter suppression complaint? There were those offensive billboards that went up in African American poorer communities that hinted at voting leading to jail.  These have to be viewed as suppression activities.  Long lines to vote are a form of suppression.  It is more likely that a voter will be discouraged if they show up to vote and there is a line out the door and around the corner.  These are typically local errors, but some of it had to do with the State reducing the time available to early vote in Ohio. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Tell Your State Legislator to Take A Break on Voting Laws

The Ohio Senate has recommended another change in the law regarding voting procedures to correct some of the issues that came up with the November election.  There were problems with counting provisional ballots and the forms required to complete in order to cast a legitimate provisional vote.  There was a lawsuit over early voting during the last weekend before the election.  There were issues with the hours of operation at the local level for early voting, and the sending out of early voting applications to every registered voter.  There were long lines for early voting and still issues with identification that need to be addressed.  The voting process in Ohio needs major reform, but this should not be done during the lame duck session. 

There are a couple of weeks left in the legislative session, and so limited time for debate or discussion.  There is not the time for constituents to pay attention with all the other issues at both the State and National level.  We have seen the last two pieces of voting legislation passed during the lame duck session of the Ohio Congress.  These previous changes have resulted in dozens of lawsuits and a petition drive.   We must stop passing these awful changes to the voting laws.  We need time to see draft legislation, and comment on these changes.  We need time to allow both sides to point out the problems with the law so that mistakes do not continue to be passed.  For example, the confusing Provisional Ballot Affirmation form, the fact that immigrants were being challenged at the polling place in violation of federal law, and passports and military ID not included as a legitimate form of identification were all previous mistakes.  Ask your legislator to take a break from passing controversial voting legislation during the lame duck session.  Ask them to wait until 2013 to work on a bipartisan bill that will not end up in court.

Ohio House of Representatives Contacts

Ohio Senate Contacts

Respond by December 1 directly to your House or Senate Member.  Their contact information is listed above.

Save a copy of the body of your comments or drop us an email about your phone call --send them to advocacy (at) neoch(dot) org for our records at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

We have added a single sheet alert that you can print out and distribute here

Victory for Voters in Ohio

In another stinging rebuke of attempts to limit the number of voters in Ohio, the Secretary of State was denied his ability to cast aside the agreement signed with the NEOCH from 2010.  This is the third time that our agreement on counting all provisional ballots has withstood a challenge.  We hope that the state of Ohio will stop challenging this agreement and instead focus on getting as many people as possible to vote and then figuring out a way to assure that all those who take the time to show up to vote have those votes counted. Here is a good background of the case and its political implications (this is a left leaning blog, but they have a good description of the issue).

"Finally, despite Defendants' [Secretary of State and State of Ohio] contention to the contrary, the Decree's orders are final and binding...The Court, alternatively, concludes that Defendants' substantive argument in favor of vacating the Decree on the basis of its orders conflicting with Ohio law's requirements also fails on the merits."--from the decision released July 9, 2012 by Judge Alegnon Marbley.

This is the third strike for the State of Ohio.  The court stuck the attempts by the state to shop for a better venue in the Ohio Supreme Court.  The law was tested in Cincinnati when the local board of elections wanted to ignore our agreement and throw in the trash the 800 ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct due to poll worker error.   We joined the lawsuit against the Hamilton County Board of Elections and won thus overturning a juvenile court judicial race.  We hope that they will not appeal this ruling, but will accept that the courts have spoken.  If a poll worker misdirects you to the wrong polling place, your ballot should count for everyone voting with a provisional ballot.  Our side has asked for an expansion of the agreement since the State attempted to open it back up.  The court has not ruled on our request for expanded coverage.  We hope that Secretary of State Husted will issue his directive to the local boards of elections to end this confusion over provisional ballots.  He should encourage additional training and education for poll workers to make sure that this is not an issue in November. 

Thanks to the court for again affirming that an agreement signed with the state of Ohio, no matter if the political figures change is binding and will be respected.   For voters the easiest way to avoid any problems is to vote by mail or use the Golden week to vote and register at the same time. We have a great deal of information on our voting blog here.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Updated: check out our voting blog with information on the cut to election hours for early voters because Husted made a partician decision last week. 

Voting Hearing Part 2

The second panel that spoke were comprised of both supporters of the Ohio voting changes as well as those opposed to the legislation. Rick Nagin has a nice summary of the hearing here.

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. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Victory in Court over Homeless Participation in Voting

We only filed a motion to protect our voting settlement  on Tuesday morning, and already the Federal Court Judge has ruled that Judge Marbley should maintain jurisdiction over this case and the State of Ohio cannot file in State Court to undermine an agreement made with NEOCH.  We have posted the press release on our blog here about the case.  I think a timeline of what has happened with regard to voting in Ohio will give a glimpse into how this can only be seen as voter suppression activities.

Late 2005/Early 2006:  Republican Governor, the Republican Secretary of State, and Republican dominated state legislators passed a huge change in voting in Ohio including a provision forcing people to show their ID in order to vote.  This came soon after the Supreme Court had allowed an Indiana voter ID law to stand.  The positive was that we got Golden Week (five days in which you can vote and register at the same time), but despite having no evidence of voter fraud Ohio passed voting changes. 

Through Most of 2006: Activists sued the state over these voting changes.  Most of these cases were defeats for the State of Ohio including the League of Women Voters, immigrant groups, and unions all prevailing.  There were many charges that these changes in the law limited voting by seniors, homeless people, minorities, naturalized citizens, and students, which except for seniors (collatoral damage) were all traditionally Democratic voters. On the eve of the 2006 election, NEOCH signed a temporary agreement of our lawsuit with the State and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell had to send out a directive instructing local board's of elections to clarify the rules for accepting identification. 

Eve of 2008 Election:  The 2006 Blackwell agreement had expired.  New Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner had issued a directive early in her administration clarifying voting issues including identification at the polling places on election day, but we still did not have a settlement.  In my opinion, the reason that the settlement took so long is that so many people were involved in the agreement.  The Republican dominated State Legislators sent a "baby sitter" to monitor the agreement.  There was an attorney for the Ohio State Legislators who monitored the settlement talks and was ever present in negotiations.   There was no way to work out an agreement and so another temporary agreement was struck just for the US Presidential election of 2008. This settlement dealt with the voting ID as well as a new issue of how provisional ballots are counted in Ohio. We had found wide disparity in the counting of provisional ballots with some counties counting 15 to 20% while others counted 60 to 70% of the provisionals.

2010 State Elections:  As Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner was leaving her position, she cleared most of the outstanding court fights with groups around the state.  The NEOCH settlement was one of the last, and all the agreements were set to expire in 2013.  All settlements were also dissolved if the State of Ohio passed new voting legislation.  We signed the agreement in April 2010 ahead of the state elections in November.  This instituted the 2008 Brunner Directive and standardized the counting of provisional ballots.  This enforced uniform standards for counting provisional ballots so that if the poll worker made a mistake that would not impact the validity of the ballot.  All parties were aware of the settlement and while we did not get all we wanted we signed the agreement.  It was my impression that lawyers for the State legislators, Attorney General, and Secretary of State all were informed of the settlement.  I did not hear any objections from any parts of the state.

2010 Cincinnati Election: Our settlement was in place, and all seemed to run smoothly with the election except in Cincinnati.  A juvenile court judge race was extremely close and there was a mandatory re-count because the margin of victory was so close.  Republican John Williams led by 23 votes over Democrat Tracie Hunter.   Hundreds of provisional votes had not been counted because there was a disagreement on the rules for counting these ballots.  In one of the most vicious filings by the Hamilton Board of Elections, they wanted to disregard our agreement because they had not signed off on it and did not think that a Cleveland group  should govern how Cincinnati runs an election.  Reading that brief was as though it had been written by the coach of the Cincinnati Bengal's talking about a snow ball incident at the stadium in a game against the Cleveland Browns.  Judge Susan Dlott ruled in favor of Ms. Hunter in her request to use the NEOCH settlment as guidance for counting all the provisional ballots in February 2012.  There was a split in the Board about appealing the ruling with Republican Secretary of State voting with the Republican members of the Board to appeal the ruling.  In April, the Appeals Court decided that the Board must count the ballots according to Judge Dlott's ruling, and they cannot wait until the Appeals Court makes its ruling (which could be a year away).  The voters were counted in late April and as expected the election was reversed and Hunter beat Williams by 71 votes.  One irony was that the Republican, Williams, was appointed to another Juvenile court judgeship last year.  This means that Hunter and Williams will serve together after the recount is conducted. 

2012 State Intervenes: Almost immediately following the Appeals Court decision, the State legislators Republican Tom Neihaus and House Republican Leader Louise Blessing sued Ohio Secretary of State and Republican Jon Husted in State Court over the signing of the April 2010 settlement.  The state legislators claim that this settlement in federal court undermines the State Legislators ability to pass laws that govern voting in Ohio. 

“Ohio’s elections should be administered under the laws established by an elected General Assembly," Niehaus and Blessing said in a joint statement today. "Unfortunately, due to the actions of the former secretary of state, the state’s chief elections officer has been compelled to issue directives that conflict with state law, particularly in the area of counting provisional ballots."

It has to be stated that the state court is dominated by Republicans, and in my opinion this was a way to undermine an agreement signed with a Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and in a federal court before a judge appointed by Democrat Bill Clinton. 

Yesterday, Federal Judge Algenon Marbley quickly intervened to force the legislators to dismiss their state lawsuit, and argue their case in federal court.  Here is how the Cincinnati Examiner viewed Marbley's order:

Judge Marbley held in his ruling that there could be “no reasonable dispute” that as leaders of Ohio’s General Assembly suing in their “official” capacities in the name of the State of Ohio, Niehaus and Blessing were acting as agents of the State of Ohio,  despite the State‘s prior agreement to enter into the Decree. Marbley said  in his decision that federal courts would be  protective of “the right of the franchise” and invoked the federal All Writs Act that enables federal courts to protect their  jurisdiction and judgments against interference.

2011 Legislation:  Republicans retook the Ohio House of Reprehensives and now held the Governor's office.  They passed even more restrictive voting legislation that would limit even further traditionally Democratic voters.  These new laws included:

  1. Shrinking the number of early voting days by half.
  2. Eliminating Golden week (which Republican dominated Counties had contested and lost in court in 2008).
  3. Eliminating early voting the weekend before the election in person.
  4. Eliminating the ability for poll workers to be required to give correct precinct information to voters (This would have undermined our settlement with counting provisional ballots due to poll worker error.)
  5. Eliminating the ability to open on Sunday for local Boards of Elections.
  6. Eliminating to send out early voting applications by local County Boards.
  7. Tightening voter ID provisions to eliminate other forms of ID that had been previously accepted.

Activists, unions, the League of Women Voters, and Democrats strongly opposed this legislation.  They mobilized a petition drive and were able to get the measure on the November 2012 ballot.  The State legislators retreated and struck down the previously passed legislation, but kept the rules for closing the weekend before this critical Presidential election. The intention was to take away the ballot initiative for November 2012.  Activists led by former Secretary of State Brunner claim that they will sue to keep the ballot issue and will try to get voters the ability to vote the weekend before the November election. 

In my personal opinion just laying out the timeline shows an attempt by one political party to depress the vote. It was amazing that different counties were setting up vastly different rules for counting provisional ballots.  Our problems in Ohio were long lines and voter registration problems, and we have still not addressed these problems.  It seems as though one group has attempted to not count votes, put up barriers to voting, and limit the time and number of places people can vote. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Voting Hearing in Cleveland

The US Senate has announced a hearing for Cleveland Ohio on May 7, 2012.  Here are the initial details that we have received:

Field Hearing Details:  The Subcommittee on the Constitution Civil Rights and Human Rights will hold a field hearing examining the impact of the new state voting laws that have recently swept the country, including HB 194 in Ohio.  Among other things, HB 194 restricts early voting, limits the distribution of absentee ballots, and no longer requires poll workers to direct voters to their proper precincts.  The hearing will be held the morning of Monday, May 7, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.

This is being organized Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois with assistance from Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. We encourage everyone who is concerned about the disenfranchisement of poor people at the ballot box to attend.  You might want to submit a statement if you have concerns:

  • about the length of time it takes to get birth certificate which is the basis for all ID.
  • about being challenged at the polling place when you attempt to vote.
  • about the disparity in some counties accepting a provisional ballot (why are the percentage of accepted provisional ballots so varied throughout the State of Ohio?)
  • about the value of Golden week where a voter can register and vote at the same time with plenty of time before the election for the board officials to determine the legitimacy of your registration.
  • about reducing the time to vote by mail or to early vote. 
  • about the board of elections being closed the weekend before the election when many people are thinking about voting and may want to exercise that vote on a normally leisurely weekend.

We have an entire section on homeless people participation in voting on our website here.