Republican Gov. John Kasich has signed into law three bills that change the procedures for voting in Ohio. The measures were rammed through the GOP- controlled General Assembly, with proponents arguing, among other things, that they are designed to combat voter fraud. Not surprisingly, Democrats have been quick to respond, accusing the Republicans who control every statewide administrative office and six of the seven Supreme Court seats of attempting to restrict voting. The arguments from both sides should ring familiar. They have been used in previous battles over voting in Ohio. The GOP contends that unrestricted access to the polls is a recipe for disaster; the Democratic Party counters that voter suppression is at the heart of the Republican campaign. It notes that urban areas are hardest hit by the changes in voting procedures, with black voters, who mostly support Democratic candidates, being dissuaded from going to the polls.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
Ohio: FitzGerald introduces voting legislation that contradicts recently-passed state law | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has formally submitted legislation to County Council asserting his right to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the county, a move that would be in direct contradiction to a recently-passed state law. FitzGerald, a Democrat who is running for governor, released the legislation — which he has deemed the “Cuyahoga County Voting Rights Law” — late Wednesday. The bill’s text says that despite any state laws to the contrary, the county will promote voter registration and promote “early voting and maximizing voter participation through voting by mail in Cuyahoga County, including, but not limited to, mailing applications to vote by mail, with postage-prepaid return envelopes, to all registered voters in Cuyahoga County.”
In a highly unusual move, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday told the U.S. Supreme Court that the state’s election law banning candidates from making false statements with malice violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech. In legal papers filed with the justices, DeWine said the Ohio law has a “chilling” impact on the speech not only of candidates, but independent organizations wishing to advertise against a candidate. The attorney general contended that the law “polices not just ‘false’ speech, but speech that indisputably is protected under the First Amendment.” Normally, the state attorney general would defend a law approved by the legislature in his or her state. The justices are expected later this spring to hear two challenges — both from Cincinnati — to the Ohio law. They have been consolidated into one case.
The group of African-American leaders pushing the inclusion of a Voters Bill of Rights in the Ohio Constitution has revised its amendment summary and submitted new signatures after Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected their initial attempt to get on the ballot. The Voters Bill of Rights would add items to the constitution that are controversial among some Republicans, such as preserving a 35-day early voting period, specifiying extended hours for early voting, allowing a voter to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the correct county and moving toward online voter registration. Supporters say their effort is a reaction to several new laws that may make voting more difficult for some – in exchange for added security, fairness and efficiency, Republicans say.
Ohio voters this year will not be able to cast votes at boards of elections on Sundays – and that has some Democrats angered across the state. Voters will still be able to cast ballots weekdays and two Saturdays in the four weeks before Election Day under a directive issued Tuesday by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted. They’ll also be able to cast early ballots by mail. But to Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke, who is also the county’s Democratic Party chairman, Sunday voting is “critical.”
Making good on a promise, the leader of Ohio’s largest county is taking legal action to counteract the state legislature’s new restrictions on early voting. And since the Cuyahoga County executive, Ed FitzGerald, is also a candidate for governor, that means he could be matched in a court challenge against current Gov. John Kasich. FitzGerald rolled out a series of actions during a press conference this morning outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Last Friday, Kasich signed Senate Bill 238, which eliminates “Golden Week” – when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day – by shortening early voting by a week. He also signed Senate Bill 205, which makes legislative approval a requirement before the secretary of state can mail out absentee-ballot applications statewide, and forbids counties from doing so on their own.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Tuesday he is cutting early voting on Sundays and weekday evenings, dealing another blow to the voting rights effort in the nation’s most pivotal swing state. Husted’s change would spell doom for a voting method that’s popular among African-Americans in Ohio and elsewhere. Many churches and community groups lead “Souls to the Polls” drives after church on the Sunday before the election. There’s little doubt that cuts to early voting target blacks disproportionately. In 2008, black voters were 56% of all weekend voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s largest, even though they made up just 28% of the county’s population. “By completely eliminating Sundays from the early voting schedule, Secretary Husted has effectively quashed successful Souls to the Polls programs that brought voters directly form church to early voting sites,” said Mike Brickner, a spokesman for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, in an email.
Ohio: Cuyahoga County considering legal action against election bills, FitzGerald says | The Columbus Dispatch
Gov. John Kasich signed two GOP-sponsored bills today that shorten early voting in Ohio and change the process for mailing absentee ballot applications statewide, potentially inviting a legal challenge from his likely Democratic opponent. Kasich put his name on Senate Bill 238 — which eliminates “Golden Week,” when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day — and Senate Bill 205, which requires the approval of the legislature for the secretary of state to mail absentee applications statewide. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, who also serves as the elected Cuyahoga County executive, said he has asked his county law director to review the two bills and is considering taking legal action. “We’ve done that before,” FitzGerald said. “We are the only county in Ohio that when they tried to change the election rules at the last minute in 2012, of course there was a lawsuit over that, there was only one county in Ohio that filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief.
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature now on two Republican-sponsored bills that reduce early voting, eyes turn toward his likely Democratic challenger to see if he follows through on a threat to challenge the new laws in court. Yesterday, Kasich signed Senate Bill 238, which eliminates “Golden Week” — when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day — and shortens early voting by a week. He also signed Senate Bill 205, which makes legislative approval a requirement before the secretary of state can mail out absentee-ballot applications statewide. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, who also is the elected Cuyahoga County executive, said he has asked his county law director to review the two new laws for possible legal action. “We’ve done that before,” said FitzGerald, who emailed supporters after Kasich signed the bills to say he was “livid.”
Hamilton County leaders can move elections operations to Mount Airy, but the issue about where to put early voting remains unsettled in the wake of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s tie-breaking vote on the matter. The decisions have national implications. Ohio – and Hamilton County in particular – are key battlegrounds in presidential elections, and how elections are conducted here can affect whose votes get counted. In the 2012 presidential election, more than 24,000 people voted early, in-person, at the Downtown location. “They need to find a place everyone can live with,” Husted told the Enquirer. “I’m not trying to tell anyone in Hamilton County where their early voting should be.” Husted added: “Honestly, the current location is not the best location.”