U.S. Supreme Court Rules Ohio May Reinstate Practice of Purging Voters From Its Rolls for Not Voting Court Decision Could Lead to Disenfranchisement Across the Country

In a 5-4 ruling in Husted v. APRI, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld an Ohio voter purge practice that removes infrequent voters from the registration rolls. The decision creates a danger that other states will pursue extreme purging practices to disenfranchise millions of eligible voters across the country.

“Today’s decision threatens the ability of voters to have their voices heard in our elections,” said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos, which led the legal team challenging the state’s practices. “The fight does not stop here. If states take today’s decision as a sign that they can be even more reckless and kick eligible voters off the rolls, we will fight back in the courts, the legislatures, and with our community partners across the country.”

In APRI, Ohio asked the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court decision that found an Ohio practice of targeting registrants who have not voted in a two-year period for removal from the voter rolls — when there is no evidence that the voter has become ineligible — violates a federal law known as the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The Court assented to Ohio’s request, holding that the state’s process does not violate the NVRA’s prohibition on using non-voting as a basis for canceling registrations because, although the state indeed targets eligible voters who have not voted recently, the non-voting is not “the sole criterion” for removing a registrant.  

“To have a healthy and functioning democracy, we must increase — not restrict — access to the ballot,” said Andre Washington, president, Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). “Practices, like Ohio’s, that remove eligible but infrequent voters from the registration rolls disproportionately disenfranchise low-income voters and voters of color.”

In 2015 alone, hundreds of thousands of infrequent voters were purged from Ohio’s voter rolls. Over 40,600 registrants in the state’s largest county, Cuyahoga, were removed under the process allowed by the Supreme Court today. The majority of these registrants lived in low-income communities and communities of color.

“The Supreme Court decision to allow Ohio to purge its citizens from the rolls is a setback for voting rights nationwide,” said Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “Our democracy weakens when states are permitted to take actions that discourage voter participation. By constructing obstacles that make voting more difficult, Ohio is sending the wrong message to its citizens.”

“Countless voters, including homeless and housing-insecure Ohioans, have already been stripped of their rights as a result of Ohio’s unjust and illogical purge process,” said Chris Knestrick, executive director, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). “By greenlighting Ohio’s purge process, the court allowed states to shut out the voices of these voters.”

Dēmos and the ACLU of Ohio first filed suit on behalf of Ohio APRI, NEOCH, and Ohio resident Larry Harmon in 2016, prevailing in the circuit court and securing relief that protected the right to vote for purged Ohio voters in November 2016 and every other election in the state to date.

“Today’s decision is a blow, not just to Ohio voters, but to the democratic process. Giving the green light to Ohio’s purge process could have a ripple effect across the entire country. Despite this setback, the court’s decision will not hinder our current and future advocacy efforts. Marginalized populations remain extremely vulnerable to state-sanctioned voter suppression and disenfranchisement, and we will continue to fight to uphold the rights of eligible voters in the 2018 midterm elections, and beyond,” said Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio.

 “Voters should not be purged from the rolls simply because they have exercised their right not to vote. This ruling is a setback for voting rights, but it is not a green light to engage in wholesale purges of eligible voters without notice.",” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

You Can Now Register On-Line in Ohio

Cleveland has a competitive Mayoral primary coming up in September and then there are some important local races this November with every City Councilmember forced to campaign.  This is the first election with on-line registration.  It is too late to register for the primary, but there is over one month to register for the November election. 

September 12, 2017 is primary election day in Cuyahoga County.

October 10, 2017 is the deadline to register to vote for the November election.

Here is the Ohio Secretary of State's office link to register on-line.

Here is the Ohio Organizing Collaborative Link to register online to vote in Ohio?

According to the Ohio Organizing Collaborative staff, "For the first time, Ohioans are able to register to vote and update their registration through the Secretary of State’s website. So whether you’ve sat the last few elections out, moved since you last registered, or never voted before, you can get registered or update your registration today.  The last few months have been… kinda scary. I don’t know what the future holds for Ohio and our country, but I do know that there are important elections coming up this year and in 2018 that will have a huge impact our communities. That’s why it’s so important that we all register and vote."

The November election is November 7, 2017 polls open from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m.  Remember that for homeless people "Vote by Mail" is the best option

It is so important for everyone to participate and to actually vote.  No matter how many barriers Ohio puts in your way, people died for everyone to have the right to cast a ballot.  Please do your civic duty and vote in both the primary and the General Election.

Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Update on House Bill 41: Voting Changes

I went to Columbus to testify against the voting changes in House Bill 41.  The bill had a substitute which I was not prepared for, but my testimony focused on all the changes that need to be addressed with regard to voting in Ohio.  The new substitute bill would eliminate the two forms that a voter needs to fill out in order to vote early in person (Good news).  It requires the individual to be asked for identification for early voting (bad news).  If the person does not have the proper identification they will have to fill out the second piece of paper (more bad news) that allows them to vote with the last four digits of their social security number.

Our issue is that because the state has been sticklers with filling out the proper paperwork, every piece of paper or piece of information collected is more of a chance that the ballot will be thrown away.  Hell, they were throwing away provisional ballots because the person wrote their name in cursive instead of printing, so how do we know that this additional paperwork will result in the ballot being thrown away? The other question that came up was what is the point of this legislation?  Why do we even need it if there is such a minor fix?  There are major problems with the voting process in Ohio why don't they fix all those other problems?

We need voting legislation to do three things:

  1. Figure out how to get every legitimate citizens registered to vote.
  2. Figure out how to assure that everyone gets to vote either early or in person on Election Day without a lot of hassle or obstacles.
  3. Figure out how to get everyone who wants to vote but is forced to vote with a provisional ballot will have that vote count. 

Based on the hearing yesterday, the State Legislators have not read Governor Kacish's new book about working to heal the division in the United States.  The Republican members did not reach out to the Democrats to craft a bi-partisan piece of legislation.  They would not allow amendments without providing 24 hours notice and they ignored opposition testimony because it was not based on the substitute legislation.  It seemed to me that the Republican majority's opinion was that Democrats were stupid and all their supporters were stupid or dreamers and were dismissive of any comments. 

 Here is the note from Representative Kathleen Clyde:

Dear friends,

I wanted to follow up with you after last week’s alert about HB 41. Yesterday, the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee heard opponent testimony asking us not to change the ID requirement for in-person early voting. The committee approved the bill anyway without consideration of the testimony or discussion before the vote.

The amendment to the bill put back the ability of voters to use their SSN4 as ID if they don’t have the other forms of ID, but the unnecessary change will still inject confusion and burden voters.

 Bill Anthony, former Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections told us, “If it’s out there that you need to bring ID, then that’s all voters are going to hear.” Nick Youngblood from the Ohio Student Association (OSA) echoed that statement and said “There is no such thing as a voting restriction that will increase turnout.” Craig Anderson, also with OSA, told the committee that as a young African American voter, he did not think the ID change was straightforward to urban voters.

 Democrats on the committee voted No on the bill. I will remain opposed to the bill if it comes to the House floor.

It was good to see State Representative Martin Sweeney from Cleveland, but otherwise the Ohio Legislature was not listening to ideas for how to fix voting in Ohio.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Here is my testimony that I submitted to the original legislation

Here are my revised comments that I would have submitted to the substitute bill

Quick Links to Voting Resources

Last Week to Vote Early

Non-Profit Vote has worked with NEOCH over the last few election cycles to help us alert voters in Ohio of the importance of voting.  We have worked with Cleveland Votes and COHHIO this year to register and get people to vote.  Early voting is the best for homeless people and those who move frequently because the staff at the Board of Elections are professional and know all the rules.  You also do not need ID to vote early.  There are rides available and one weekend left for early voting. 

Volunteers Needed for Voting Event

Volunteer in support of Democracy in America. Kareem Abdul Jabbar did not think it was necessary to struggle to sign people up to vote.  He said:

Ignorance is not something that really lends itself to a meaningful discussion. So some of these people really shouldn't vote, because they don't know what the issues are. And I think people that are voting in the blind are doing a disservice to our country by not being better informed. ... I hope that everybody understands the issues and votes their conscience according to a well-informed effort on their part.

By knowing what the issues are and how things can proceed, given what the issues are, I think we get a lot more done when we have the electorate being well informed. And it is my fervent hope that a well-informed electorate is the result of all this. ... Some [people] definitely aren't prepared to vote. And that's unfortunate, but it's a fact.

This is an interesting discussion for academia by a Great American and Champion of Social Justice, but NEOCH believes that everyone should vote. Despite Abdul Jabbar being one of the greatest thinkers to ever appear on Sesame Street, we disagree, and maybe there should be an option for "none of the above" voting.  A portion of those new voters are not prepared to vote, but the majority have something valuable to add to the discussion.  It is my experience that homeless people are surprisingly well informed about the issues.  They read the paper and talk about some of the main issues facing those living in poverty.  We want everyone, even the uniformed, to sign up to vote.  Please help us by signing up as a volunteer. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry or those quoted by name. 

What Can You Do to Help Overcrowded Shelters?

So, what concrete steps can concerned citizens take?" [to the Post about the Overcrowded Shelters in August]

This is an excellent question that will not fit in 140 characters so we will try to answer:

The Women's Shelter system is completely broken and we found this weekend that there were no beds available in the community.  The folks at 2-1-1 were told to tell people to come back on Monday, which is in violation of the guaranteed access to shelter that have been a part of the shelter contracts since 2000.  What can a concerned citizen do:

1. Call Dan Brady as the head of County Council to ask if he knew that the shelters were so full this weekend they were telling people to come back Monday.  Ask what is the status of his investigation on the Women's Shelter that was supposed to be complete by September 2016? Office: 216/698-2014 or email him at dbrady (at) cuyahogacounty (dot) us to ask about all this.

2. Cuyahoga County takes the lead on these issues so asking any of the County Council members would be helpful.  They distribute $33 million in funding, but there is no plan to end homelessness locally.  Things are getting worse and we have not seen many good ideas come out of the County Council.  It is fine to build permanent supportive housing, but that cannot be the only thing we do and it cannot be at the expense of everything else. 

3. Call or e-mail your local councilman to ask them why families are so under-served in our community.  From South Euclid to Rocky River to Bay Village and Westlake, they could all better address homelessness.  Even if you are in the suburbs you could ask them why there is only one domestic violence shelter in Cuyahoga County and there are so many (even from the suburbs) who are fleeing violence?  Ask your council person why we have so few domestic violence beds compared to nearly every county around us.  Ask them if they are committed to families having guaranteed access to shelter in Cuyahoga County, because that concept is slipping away.

4. If you are religious person or you belong to a civic organization (like the Kiwannas), there are many things that you could do from the small to the huge.  You could raise the issue and ask what your group could do to help?  Could they do a hygiene or water drive and then drop those at NEOCH during business hours or could they house families when there is a crisis like this weekend?   Our community lost a lot when Interfaith Hospitality Network closed, because the faith community is not as involved in the struggle as they were in the past.  We need to recreate this network and get faith leaders involved in the struggle to reduce family homelessness with various projects. 

5. Contact your favorite media personalilty to ask why they have not covered this story?  Why are they not talking about all the women stuffed into 2219 Payne Ave.?  Why they are not talking about the huge loss of shelter beds locally?  Or why a women fleeing domestic violence cannot get a bed in our community? 

6. Speaking of faith leaders, why not ask your priest, minister, pastor, rabbi or imam to talk about the subject of homelessness this week.  We are at a critical point and we need all the help we can get.  We need good ideas being put forward and we need some local discussions about homelessness. 

7. Volunteer at one of the shelters or direct service providers to become more familiar with what is going on locally.  This will help you to understand what is going on and can be better educated about possible solutions.  We have a web page dedicated to direct service opportunities available in the community.

8. Vote. Also, if you get a chance to meet a candidate ask them what they are doing to address the homeless crisis locally.  There will be town halls and candidate forums coming up and it is a good chance to put them on the spot. 

9.  The County Office of Homeless Services is in charge of the plan to fund the shelters and they enforce the guaranteed access to shelter.  Ruth Gillett is the head of the office and can be reached at 216/420-6844 and you could ask her what she is going to do to shelter families?  She is going to give you stuff about model programs...studies show...less expensive alternatives...etc.  But the bottom line is this weekend, we did not have any space for families who were sleeping in the single women's shelter and for years the last women's shelter has been overcrowded.  So, what they have been doing is not working and how are they going to solve this problem?  How many months in a row does overflow with people sleeping on the floor do we have to have before it turns into additional beds?   Let us know what she says if you get a chance to talk to her. 

10. Federal elected officials are the key to success here.  There is not enough money in Cleveland or Cuyahoga County to turn things around.  We need the federal government to step up to solve this problem.  We need a national housing policy.  We need the lead organization, HUD, to get back in the game of ending homelessness.  They need to take a few lessons from the Veterans Administration who actually made progress.  We have a senatorial election and every single House member up for election.  All need to be asked what they are doing about homelessness and the affordable housing crisis locally.  Hold their feet to the fire and get them to step up to take the lead in ending homelessness for everyone in America. 

If you do all of these or any of them let us know what happened.  Tell us about your experiences and the answers you heard.  Tell us if your group has become involved with Habitat or is making hygiene kits.  We need your help and only concerned citizens can make a change.  We are constantly bashing the politicians, media and the bureaucrats and they are tired of hearing from us.  Only voters can make a difference in turning this around.  Senior Citizens vote and call and complain, and look at all the great services available to those over 62.  There is housing, senior centers, and nearly every level of government has an office and program for senior citizens.  Their mobilization proves that voting and calling works. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Recent Voting Updates

Ohio has joined the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which has software that will allow Secretary of State Husted to send voter registration reminders to around 2 million Ohioans. These mailing will be sent to those who are either not registered to vote or need to update their registration.
Read more here 

The Ohio Legislature passed a bill that will allow online voter registration beginning in 2017. However, voters will need an Ohio driver’s license or a state ID to use this service. For the upcoming 2016 election, Ohio voters cannot register online, but they can continue to update their registration address online at sos.state.oh.us, and for Cuyahoga County voters at boe.cuyahogacounty.us.
Read more here 

Ohio has portable voter registration, meaning that a voter registered anywhere in the state is eligible to vote even if they don’t update their address before the registration deadline. Ohio voters can update their address at the same time as they vote, and will simply have to cast a provisional ballot.
Read more here 

by Megan Shanklin

Updates to Homeless Voting Section of Website

In preparation for the important upcoming November 2016 election, we’ve updated the Homeless Voting section of our website! Click here or on the “Vote” Button on our many of the pages on the website and you’ll see an updated menu with current information for the 2016 election.

We have an overview of the pertinent voting information, NEOCH’s voting plan for 2016, FAQ about homeless voting, a voting checklist, and a flyer on the importance of voting. There are also links to external sites with relevant information. On the Voting Blog, I’ve added posts about recent changes in Ohio voting laws. These include NEOCH’s victory in its lawsuit against Secretary of State Husted, the restoration of Golden Week, Gov. Kasich’s veto of a potential restrictive voting law, and the recent purge of voter registration records.  

by Megan Shanklin

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Reflections on the Voting Victory

VICTORY for NEOCH

Ohio voting laws enacted by Republicans in 2014 have been overturned pending an appeal.

When you go to register to vote or go to the polls, the last thing on your mind is that there may be deliberate, subtle voter suppression techniques at work to eliminate some of the ballots.  A Federal Judge agreed that is exactly what was happening in Ohio causing NEOCH and other plaintiffs (The Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless) to win a lawsuit that was putting illegitimate requirements on how absentee ballots were determined legitimate and counted.  The judge agreed that “technical errors”, obvious typos and honest mistakes were not reason to throw out ballots when it was still easy to determine the identity of the voter. 

The 2014 laws which were put into effect by a Republican controlled Ohio Congress required that ballots be thrown out if there were errors in them.  Simple errors like these I found in our research of the ballots were all thrown out by the Board of Elections at our NEOCH offices:

  • A person made a mistake on the first digit of the last four digits of their social and clearly wrote an 8 over top of it.  It was bold and dark, it was obvious it was an 8 but it was thrown out.  The only error was the person found and corrected their own error. 
  • Another person put the 4 numbers of their address in the wrong boxes and went back and corrected over top.  There was a Social Security # (SS), Date of Birth-- DOB, signature, and still their ballot was thrown out, again, this error was caught and corrected by the person and was still thrown out.
  • A person put their SS in the State of OH box and put an arrow pointing down to the SS# boxes where it should have been and it was thrown out.  It was clear what they meant, but again, the ballot was rejected by the Board of Elections.

Unfortunately many of these errors were made by Senior Citizens, many of whom were in their 70’s and 80’s and simply just wanted to vote. They walked away thinking that they had voted only to have their ballots rejected, discarded and uncounted.  

The overturning of these laws is a huge victory for the voters in our state.  Literally thousands of ballots have been thrown out since these laws were enacted in 2014.  Many of them removed legitimate votes from sincere people who simply made a mistake.  The BOE was able to determine the voter’s identity, but the ballot still was discarded.  So, if a person had trouble reading the ballot or misunderstood something or made a mistake, their right to vote was lost.  Voting should be a simple and easy process for everyone, especially the elderly, but has become a test of reading, writing and attention skills. 

We are very thankful that NEOCH, the Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless got together and fought the State of Ohio to assure that these unethical laws were abolished and that people in Ohio can rest easy knowing their right to vote is being protected. 

Immediately following this victory, the State of Ohio declared that they were going to appeal this decision.  Clearly, they think that a mistake on a ballot made by an elderly person, or by a person who has trouble reading is reason for that person’s vote should not count.  I believe every ballot where the voter can be identified needs to count.  It is essential to our democracy. 

by Denise Toth

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Homeless People Have a Right To Vote Trainings

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is beginning our 2016 campaign to include homeless people in voter registration and get out the vote campaigns.   We have a staff person, Ken Payton, who is assigned to work on voting activities.  He can pick up your completed registrations and get them over to the Board of Elections in a timely manner.  He will be coordinating rides to the polling place in October and November and can bring your agency blank registration forms if you need.    We are hoping that each agency can assign one person to work on voting activities since every homeless person needs to update the Board of Elections on their residency for voting purposes.   In 2016, we are offering to come to your staff meetings to talk about homeless participation in voting if you want.  

Brian Davis

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Primary is Tuesday in Ohio

Whatever you do be careful with that envelope that your ballot goes in for early voting.  They are being sticklers and discarding good ballots for minor errors.  Be very, very careful.  You also might want to avoid commercial tv this weekend because it is wall to wall political ads.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

History of NEOCH Civil Rights

For the entire history of the Coalition, staff have worked on protecting against municipal actions that target homeless people and the hate crimes that result when government singles out one group in our society.  We believe that there is a correlation between high numbers of hate crimes against homeless people and the cities in the United States that routinely pass laws directed at homeless people.  It is for this reason that we regularly oppose “quality of life” laws and targeted enforcement against homeless people for purely innocent behavior of attempting to live without housing.  Here is a summary of the NEOCH Civil Rights work:

Clements vs. Cleveland

The first attempt in the mid 1990s to stop police arresting and threatening arrest of homeless people for purely innocent behavior of sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk.  Police accused of driving homeless people to the outskirts of Cuyahoga County and dropping them off the bus line.  The City of Cleveland eventually settled with the four plaintiffs and basically blamed “rogue cops” for misinterpreting the directives issued from the administration.  Richard Clements passed away in New York this year.

Homeless Grapevine vs. City of Cleveland

The City felt that vendors of the street newspaper must buy a license before they could sell a paper on the sidewalks of Cleveland.  NEOCH won in the district court, but was reversed on appeal.  City tried to pass legislation to force vendors buy a license, but could not get the legislation through the City Council.  Vendors are currently free to sell the paper within the City of Cleveland with only an agency issued license, but City maintains right to regulate the sidewalk if the City Council can agree. 

Key vs. City of Cleveland

This was the second attempt to stop the sweeps of homeless people in Cleveland.  Police began ticketing homeless people around the holidays to encourage people to come Downtown to shop.  Police were willing to testify that this was City policy at the time because they did not want to be labelled as “going rogue.”  Cleveland settled the lawsuit in 2000 and we have posed the settlement on our website.  It basically states that the police will not arrest or threaten arrest anyone for purely innocent behavior of sitting, sleeping, standing or eating on the sidewalk as long as they are not blocking access.  NEOCH tests this agreement every November to assure that it is still being followed (Appendix A). 

Stun Gun Attacks

In the early 2000s, there were young people who came to Cleveland from Youngstown and recorded themselves using a Taser stun gun to shock homeless people and film their reaction.  NEOCH pushed for harsh punishments for these three young people, and held a community meeting to talk about protection for vulnerable populations.

Homeless Exploitation Videos

There were major retailers in the United States online and in stores that were selling videos of homeless people fighting in exchange for change or alcohol.  NEOCH worked with the National Coalition for the Homeless to convince major retailers such as Best Buy and Target to stop selling these exploitation videos in their stores.  These were recorded by young people and collected together and then sold in many stores and online retailers.

Covenant to Serve Food

The City was concerned over the mess being created on Public Square by church groups feeding homeless people.  We worked with the new administration to avoid the City passing legislation that we would have had to challenge in court.  NEOCH worked out a “covenant” where the church groups would move off public square to a parking lot with trash and bathroom facilities and the City agreed to not introduce legislation.

The Right to Shelter

Since the founding of the Coalition, NEOCH has fought to assure that the shelters are accessible to everyone in need and at no time will the shelters turn people away over a lack of space.  For over 20 years we have had guaranteed access to shelter in Cleveland, and we have worked to improve the conditions at the shelters.  When the shelters are full, providers will transport people to a church or recreation center as an overflow site if the building capacity is reached.  We also support the development of an overnight drop in center similar to Metanoia for the entire year.

Voting Lawsuit Against the State of Ohio

NEOCH has filed suit against the State of Ohio and three Secretaries of State from 2005 through the present over voting procedures in the state.  Our concern was regarding the identification requirements and their impact on reducing turnout by low income, homeless and minority voters.  I have provided a series of depositions in this case.  In years 2006, 2008 and 2012, we had a settlement with the state to allow homeless people to use a social security number to have their ballot count if they voted in person.  This agreement was binding until 2014 when the state changed the law regarding the use of identification for provisional ballots.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Potential Chaos in Voting Hours

There was a great decision last week by Federal Judge Peter Economus to open up early voting including the preservation of Golden Week.  We wrote about this on our voting update section of our website.  Just click on the VOTE button on any page of the website.  This week, Judge Economus has allowed the state to join the lawsuit in their appeal.  We thought that Golden week was dead and had no hope in being resurrected especially when the case drew an extremely conservative judge.   The NAACP and League of Women Voters' lawyers successfully made the case that this is just an extension of the 2012 early voting case to get Judge Economus to decide on the case.   Now, we are scrambling to get homeless people to use Golden Week. 

One area that is going to be touchy this week is what happens at the local level.  The judge forcefully said that the Secretary of State should not block local expansions of voting hours, but he has a vote. I would recommend reading the 71 page decision, because Economus really went after the State of Ohio for limiting voting.  Full disclosure: the Judge quoted my testimony against the loss of Golden Week earlier this year when it was in legislative committee.  Economus's decision says:

The Court likewise concludes that SB 238’s elimination of Golden Week itself similarly burdens the voting rights of lower income and homeless individuals. The record reflects that in 2008, 12,842 voters utilized Golden Week to register or update their registration and vote; in 2010, 1,651 voters did so; and, in 2012, 5,844 voters did so. While these figures may be small in comparison to the millions of votes usually cast in Ohio elections, thousands of voters have utilized Golden Week during each of the last several elections.

What happens if the local board splits with the two Democrats wanting evening hours and the two Republicans want no evening hours?  The Secretary of State breaks all local tie votes.   Would he cross the federal judge and vote to limit early voting or cross his party and allow urban communities with large African American voters to open in the evening for voting?  Would he see that equality does not mean stuffing hundreds of thousands into the same building with only 5 hours of off work hours available a week to vote in person?  

There is also the matter of the appeal of this case that could cause chaos.   There is so little time left for boards to get ready for early voting, the State needs to drop their appeal and let us have the same hours we had in 2012.  Small counties were not been adversely impacted by different voting hours.  Cuyahoga and the other big counties did not have voter turnout far greater than the other counties.  The world did not end because each County had a different schedule.  Right now, we are planning for evening hours, weekend early voting and Golden Week.  If we have to change course again, voters are going to be so confused.  This appeal of the case can only be viewed as exclusively political and not helpful to voting in Ohio.  The Secretary of State is certainly not providing certainty in voting and allowing the local community to set their own hours based on the needs of their citizens; he is protecting the goals of his political party to limit access to early voting.  We need to allow the local experts to decide on the hours for their voters.

By the way, we are collecting volunteers for Early voting both with registrations and driving people to the Board of Elections.  Here is a copy of a flyer that you can print out or send around to family and friends...  Contact NEOCH if you want to volunteer.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry and not the Board or other staff of the agency.

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

Voting Success in Last Election

Homeless People Do Vote

We are working on compiling the numbers from the last election, and so we are looking at homeless participation in the 2012 Presidential election.  We had a great response to voting by those sleeping in the shelters and were newly registered.  The NEOCH staff signed up 322 voters from July through October, and 93%  of those we registered actually voted.  This is a powerful number proving that homeless people do in fact vote.  To show how important it is to have as many early voting hours as possible only 2 out of the 322 people voted on Election Day.  Nearly all the homeless individuals voted by mail or at the Board of Elections in Cuyahoga County. 

These were the registration cards that NEOCH staff handled.   We are also looking at the voters registered by the shelters in Cleveland.  We will have those numbers in the next week.   These individuals who have lost their housing, their jobs and most of their material possessions took the time to register to vote and then they showed up to be counted.   Almost everyone who registered while staying in a shelter then showed up to vote.  

We took a Vietnam era who had never voted in the past over to vote during Golden week when his buddies at the VA Hospital Transitional shelter were also going.  

We took a woman who got into housing between the registration deadline and Election Day.  We took her over to vote on Election Day and she was terrified that she would not be allowed to vote.  She had never voted before and she was a devout Muslim who wore a vail.  She was worried because her ID did not have her new address and she did not want to take off her vail to prove her identity.   The poll workers were great and kind to her and she had no problem voting.  She started crying on the way back to her apartment. 

We had a voter who cast an early vote at the Board of Elections and almost talked himself out of being able to vote.  He had become homeless in between the time he had registered and when he was voting.  He kept trying to clarify with the poll worker that he was homeless now and so was not at that address.  He finally voted after not having voted for years.

We had homeless people who waited in line for 45 minutes on the Sunday before the election to vote, and a woman who made sure that her roommates at the Community Women's Shelter all completed their mail in ballot as soon as they arrived at the shelter. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinions 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