Golden Week is gone again in Ohio. For the time being, at least. The controversial period in which Ohioans can both register to vote and cast an early ballot was struck down Tuesday by a federal appellate pane, overturning a lower-court ruling re-establishing Golden Week. “Proper deference to state legislative authority requires that Ohio’s election process be allowed to proceed unhindered by the federal courts,” said a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that split 2-1. Thus continues the ritual witnessed every presidential election year in bellwether Ohio: Bitter court battles over voting. Now Ohio Democrats who brought the lawsuit must decide whether to ask the full appeals court to consider Tuesday’s decision.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
Legislation introduced this week could eliminate unnecessary elections, such as the Sept. 13 special primary where only one person is on the ballot to become the Democrat nominee in November’s 8th Congressional District contest. That special primary election will cost taxpayers $500,000 after the previous candidate, Corey Foister, dropped out. “Our county boards of elections work hard to stretch every taxpayer dollar as far as it will go to ensure efficient, fair elections,” said Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, who introduced the legislation. “Forcing them to hold uncontested primary elections is a clear waste of time and taxpayer resources.” Because just one vote will win the special primary — which appears to have already been cast in Clark County via a military ballot — LaRose drafted Senate Bill 347, which would change the law that triggers a primary election based on the number of candidates who are certified. The proposed bill would remove the requirement to hold a primary when only one candidate is certified, and gives the Secretary of State the authority to declare that lone candidate the party’s nominee.
In Ohio, Secretary of State Jon Husted likes to say, it is easy to vote and hard to cheat. But Ohio’s voting laws — like several others throughout the country — are being put to a test with legal challenges that strike at a bedrock of American democracy: free and fair elections. On Thursday the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati heard arguments on a federal lawsuit filed by civil rights groups seeking to invalidate two voter laws passed by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature in 2014. The laws, both addressing absentee voting, make it difficult for some voters — particularly African-Americans and low-income Ohioans who tend to favor Democrats — to cast ballots, according to attorney Subodh Chandra. “The pattern is unmistakable, and the result is unconstitutional,” said Chandra, a former federal prosecutor.
Ohio: Multimillion-dollar voting rights battle could prove even more costly for taxpayers | Cleveland Plain Dealer
The state of Ohio has racked up more than $2.7 million in legal fees it will likely have to pay to attorneys who have engaged in a decade’s worth of litigation over voting laws passed by the state’s legislature and enforced by the secretary of state’s office. And while a federal appeals court said part of that amount must be re-calculated, the cost is expected to increase significantly in the future, as those same lawyers still need to add in the nearly three years of legal work completed since the last time a judge ordered payment. The legal battle at issue has raged on since 2006, though it is in line with challenges to a series of laws passed by Republican-controlled legislatures across the country in the past few years. Courts in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, North Dakota and Kansas issued scathing opinions in the past week that invalidated key parts of voting legislation passed in each state, with each court stating that the laws were aimed at curbing minority participation in elections. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless first filed suit against the secretary of state over laws passed by the legislature that required voters to provide identification at polling places. The case has evolved and continued after elected officials passed laws that affected provisional ballots. This resulted in a trial earlier this year, after which Columbus federal Judge Algenon Marbley issued a constitutional rebuke of the state’s laws pertaining to the disqualification of absentee and provisional ballots for technical violations.
While he doesn’t quite share Donald Trump’s sentiment that the election system is “rigged,” Subodh Chandra says the proof is indisputable that thousands of Ohioans have improperly had legitimate votes discarded. And the Cleveland lawyer whose lawsuit against the state is being heard by a federal appeals court panel today contends Ohio’s voting rules discriminate against minorities. “Counties are applying completely different standards, and those standards seem to correlate heavily by race,” he said during a Columbus press conference Wednesday. “Ohio’s secretary of state and the General Assembly have been trying to skew the voting process in favor of voters they believe are friendly to them. And that mostly white voters,” Chandra said. “That is unacceptable under any conceivable interpretation of the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.”
Have you ever mistakenly printed the wrong date on a check? Make a similar error on a ballot, and your vote might not count in Ohio. Voting rights advocates say that’s not fair. They challenged two laws passed by Ohio’s GOP-controlled state legislature in federal court and won. But Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed the decision, saying courts were upending democratically-passed laws. “(T)he only thing that has been achieved is chaos and voter confusion,” Husted, a Republican, said in a statement. Lawyers will argue whether these laws are constitutional Thursday. Here’s what they do: Ballots can be tossed if voters don’t fill out five fields of basic information like date of birth or current address on absentee or provisional ballots. These mistakes are relatively rare: about 2,800 ballots were invalidated from the November 2014 election out of more than 900,000 provisional and absentee ballots. Still, voting rights advocates argue these mistakes hurt real voters and disproportionately affect urban counties with higher numbers of African-American voters – a key voting bloc for Democrats. “Ohio Secretary of State and general assembly have been trying to skew the voting process in favor of voters they believe are friendly for them, and that’s mostly white voters,” said Subodh Chandra, an attorney representing Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in the case.
Ohio voters who haven’t cast a ballot in the past six years could be out of luck if they go back to the polls in November. The state is preparing to purge voter registration rolls of everyone who hasn’t voted since 2010, unless they’ve updated their registration or responded to queries seeking to confirm their address. Opponents of the annual purge went to court Wednesday in Cincinnati to stop it, arguing it could violate the rights of tens of thousands of Ohioans who should be eligible to vote. As always in an election year, the stakes are especially high in Ohio. The swing state could be crucial in a close presidential election this fall, and partisans on both sides are closely watching the case. Adding to the drama is uncertainty over the fate of voters who already have been purged from the rolls, including those who last voted in 2008, the year Barack Obama first won the presidency.
The groups trying to undo the state’s purge of tens of thousands of Ohioans from voter rolls because of failing to vote or confirm home addresses have a powerful new ally in their court fight — the U.S. Justice Department. The legal battle erupted in April when the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless filed suit in federal court in Columbus. It challenged Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s move to revoke the registrations of an unspecified number of residents because they didn’t respond to address verification requests or hadn’t voted in four years. U.S. District Judge George Smith upheld Husted’s actions on June 29. The plaintiffs, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the public policy group Demos, appealed to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Ohio: As the GOP Convention Begins, Ohio Is Purging Tens of Thousands of Democratic Voters | The Nation
Larry Harmon, a 59-year-old software engineer and Navy vet, went the polls in 2015 in his hometown of Kent, Ohio, to vote on a state ballot initiative. But poll workers told him he was no longer registered and could not vote. “I felt embarrassed and stupid at the time,” Harmon told Reuters. “The more I think about it, the madder I am,” he said. Harmon voted for Barack Obama in 2008 but had not returned to vote until 2015. He later learned that he was purged from the rolls in Ohio for “infrequent voting” because he had not voted in a six-year period, even though he hadn’t moved or done anything to change his registration status. The same thing is now happening to tens of thousands of voters across the state. The fear is that voters who cast ballots in 2008 but have not participated since, particularly first-time voters for Obama, will show up in 2016 to find that they are no longer registered. Ohio has purged more voters over a 5-year period than any other state.
Just blocks from the arena where Republicans kicked off their presidential nominating convention here Monday, Democrats held an event of their own — on voting rights. “A lot of us are fiercely protective of voting rights,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told a packed room, reminding attendees that “a lot of blood was spilled,” in the battle to win voting rights for blacks. He and other speakers at the two-hour town hall urged pastors, community leaders and others to rally voters to go to the polls this fall. “We have to be clear — it’s about who you’re for, but it’s also who your against,’’ he said. “And somewhere in the middle ought to be the energy for you to go vote. For whatever reason, you need to go.’’ Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, hosted the “United State of Voting’’ event at Cleveland State University. A few blocks away, thousands of Republicans, including a delegation from Mississippi, began their four-day convention.