Cuyahoga County voters will decide in November whether to approve a charter amendment that county officials hope will provide them with more authority to file lawsuits to stop or overturn restrictions on voting rights. County council approved a measure to put the amendment on the ballot by an 8-3 vote, with council’s three Republicans dissenting. The measure was sponsored by Councilwoman Sunny Simon at the urging of county executive and Democratic governor candidate Ed FitzGerald. FitzGerald said Wednesday that the charter amendment would strengthen Cuyahoga County’s legal position should it need to sue over voting rules as several groups are now doing. He said attorneys in the county law department worry that a judge might not allow the county to sue because county boards of elections, and not county government, oversee voting. ”We’re anticipating legal arguments down the line,” FitzGerald said.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
A federal judge in Ohio is weighing arguments over the impact of early-voting changes in the presidential battleground state, as civil rights groups and voting rights organizations seek to block recent restrictions from being in place this November. Ohioans vote absentee by mail or in person without giving any reason. The lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Peter Economus challenges two early-voting revisions. One is a directive this year from Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted that set uniform, early voting times that included restrictions on weekend and evening hours. The other is a bill passed by the GOP-led General Assembly in February that shortens the early voting window. Instead of 35 days, the period would typically be 29 or 28 days. The law gets rid of a so-called “golden week” when people could both register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time.
Ohio created a new right to early voting and cannot use cost figures to now justify infringing on that right, voting rights activists argued today before a federal judge. But the state argued that there’s no such thing as a constitutional right to cast a no-fault absentee ballot, which is what in-person early voting is. It contends Ohio has one of the most liberal voting systems in the nation. The League of Women Voters, NAACP, and several African-American churches sued to reinstate weekend and evening early voting hours that voters took advantage of during the 2012 presidential election. They’re also seeking to reinstate the so-called Golden Week, a six-day overlap between the prior 35-day absentee and early voting window and the 30-day deadline for voter registration during which a would-be voter could register and cast an absentee ballot on the spot. “Defendants don’t even dispute that Sunday voting is an African American phenomenon…,” said Sean Young, of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “One Sunday afternoon isn’t enough to conduct all of these Souls to Polls activities.”
A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from the Ohio Legislature to become part of a lawsuit challenging early voting rules in the key swing state. The Republican-controlled General Assembly had sought to be among the lawsuit’s defendants, which include the state’s attorney general and elections chief. Attorneys argued that lawmakers had a right to defend the statutes they enact. But U.S. District Judge Peter Economus said the General Assembly failed to convince the court that its position differed from the current defendants. He also questioned the timing of the legislature’s request to intervene, saying it came more than two months after the lawsuit was filed in May. ”The General Assembly has offered no reason justifying this delay,” Economus wrote. Attorneys have asked the judge to reconsider, saying they have complied with the court’s schedule.
The U.S. Department of Justice made good today on its promise to intervene in Ohio elections, joining an existing lawsuit trying to restore more evening and weekend voting for Ohioans. The federal government filed a “statement of interest” in NAACP litigation against Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine. A separate filing today challenged changes in Wisconsin voting laws. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a release.
The Republican head of the Ohio House says he’s open to considering legislation setting hours for early voting in state law, rather than leaving it to the secretary of state or court action to determine when Ohioans can cast ballots in person before Election Day. ”We’re thinking about it, very definitely,” Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) told reporters following an event at the Statehouse this past week. Statehouse Republicans moved a series of election law changes over the current session but have not dealt with the voting hours issue. Absent action, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted initially adopted an early voting schedule for the November general election that included mostly weekday polling, a plan he said had the backing of bipartisan county elections officials. A federal judge’s order, however, prompted Husted to open the polls over two additional days — the Sunday and Monday before Election Day, which were not part of his original directive.
The Ohio Conference of the NAACP is asking a federal judge to expand early voting by restoring “ golden week” and allowing in-person ballots to be cast on more Sundays and during evening hours. Meanwhile, a coalition led by the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus said yesterday that it will continue its signature-gathering efforts to get an Ohio Voter Bill of Rights before voters, but it will not make the 2014 ballot. The NAACP lawsuit was filed with the same federal judge who two weeks ago required Secretary of State Jon Husted to implement early voting on the three days before Election Day. But the lawsuit filed this week with U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus says that does not go far enough to ensure access to the ballot.
Voting restrictions imposed by Ohio Republicans earlier this year will make casting a ballot in the Buckeye State significantly harder, and will hurt African-Americans far more than whites, according to a new court filing which offers a wealth of data to back up its claims. The brief, filed Monday by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), asks a federal judge for an injunction to block the restrictions—cuts to the early voting period, and the elimination of same-day voter registration—before this November’s election. The ACLU filed suit earlier this year, alleging that the moves violate the Voting Rights Act’s ban on voting changes that have a racially discriminatory effect. But until Monday, it had not offered detailed information in support of its case.
Ohio: ‘Voters Bill of Rights’ effort misses July deadline, will continue to collect signatures | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Supporters of a “Voters Bill of Rights” constitutional amendment won’t attempt to put the issue on the ballot this November but plan to continue collecting signatures for a future November ballot. Amendment supporters had to collect roughly 385,000 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters by July 2 for the amendment to appear on the November ballot. The group has been collecting signatures since March, but were more than 200,000 signatures short. State Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat leading the group, said the all-volunteer effort has collected about 100,000 signatures in less than 90 days on a “shoestring budget.” Signatures that have been collected will still count toward the group’s final total.
After taking office in 2010, Democratic Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece was determined to push back against Republican-sponsored voting restrictions. So Reece did what a lawmaker is supposed to do: She introduced bills, drew up amendments, pushed for hearings and testified before commissions. But with the GOP in complete control of state government beginning January 2011, she didn’t get far. Reece, 42, grew up immersed in the civil rights movement. She volunteered for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition before she was old enough to vote, and at college in Louisiana she organized her dorm to fight David Duke, a onetime state lawmaker and former Ku Klux Klan leader who was running for governor. So with Democrats shut out in Columbus, and no end in sight to GOP efforts to restrict access to the ballot, Reece decided to go back to her roots. “I tried to work on the inside,” Reece, 42, explained on a recent Saturday over lunch at Pleasant Ridge Chili—the self-proclaimed inventor of gravy cheese fries. “Now, I had to go outside, and get organizing a people’s movement.”