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.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
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.”
Ohio: U.S. Supreme Court will allow constitutional challenge of Ohio law that bars campaign lies | Cleveland Plain Dealer
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that an anti-abortion group can challenge the constitutionality of an Ohio law that bars lies about politicians during an election. The Susan B. Anthony List in April told the Supreme Court that the law, which allows citizens to file complaints about untruthful statements with Ohio’s Election Commission, chills free speech before elections. ”The threatened proceedings are of particular concern because of the burden they impose on electoral speech,” said the decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas. “Moreover, the target of a complaint may be forced to divert significant time and resources to hire legal counsel and respond to discovery requests in the crucial days before an election.” The case stemmed from an ad the group placed that accused former Cincinnati-area Democratic congressman Steve Driehaus of voting for “taxpayer-funded abortion” by backing the Affordable Care Act.
His hand forced by a judge, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has announced hours for early voting. But the war over access to the ballot in the nation’s most pivotal swing state isn’t over by a long shot. In a directive issued Tuesday afternoon, Husted, a Republican, set early voting hours for the four weeks before Election Day that are roughly comparable to the hours offered in 2012. Husted acted after a federal judge, in a ruling last week, required him to restore early voting on the last three days before the election. Husted had previously tried to cut early voting on those days. The judge’s ruling ensured that the “Souls to the Polls” drives that many black churches have conducted in recent years—in which people vote en masse after services—can continue.
Ohio voters can cast ballots in person over an 18-hour period for the final three days before Election Day. Following a federal court order last week, Secretary of State Jon Husted set uniform hours today for in-person absentee voting on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before Election Day, which this year falls on Nov. 4. Those hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1; 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2; and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3. U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus granted a permanent injunction June 11 preventing Husted from restricting or eliminating voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before all future elections. The hours Husted had previously set for the governors’ election this fall included hours on the final two Saturdays before Election Day, but none on the final Sunday and Monday.
Early voting has not led to more voting in Ohio, at least not in terms of total votes cast. A Dispatch analysis of the vote totals from the past three presidential elections in the state shows that overall turnout in the 2012 race, when Ohioans arguably had the most opportunities in state history to vote early, was lower than in the 2004 election, when there was virtually no early voting in Ohio. Turnout in 2008, the first presidential race in which Ohioans had no-fault absentee voting and also the first time an African-American was on the ballot, was about 1 percent higher than in 2004. “People who vote early are people who are typically going to vote anyway,” said Paul Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University. “So, early voting hasn’t really succeeded in turning out more people to vote. We’ve made it a lot easier to vote, but on the other hand, some people are very discouraged about politics and might not care how easy it is to vote.”
An effort to put a voting-rights amendment on Ohio’s November ballot will “go all the way up to the wire,” the organizer said Thursday, acknowledging Democratic candidates may miss out on the turnout benefit a voting-related ballot issue would bring. African-American leaders in the quintessential swing state are seeking to gather the 385,000 signatures needed to put their proposed Voters Bill of Rights on the Ohio ballot. They had been aiming to get the issue in front of voters in November, citing a need to fight back swiftly against new GOP-sponsored laws that Democrats say unfairly restrict ballot access. But signatures for the November ballot are due July 2, and some key elements of signature-gathering are just ramping up, said state Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Bond Hill, the leader of the effort. If activists fall short of their goal, they’ll save their signatures for another election. That could eliminate some of the boost Democratic candidates this fall may have received from having a ballot issue that galvanizes African-American voters.