Ohio Republicans are poised to pass a new round of restrictive voting laws this week. Taken together, the measures could limit access to the ballot in this year’s midterms and the 2016 presidential race, and revive the obscenely long lines at the polls that plagued the Buckeye State a decade ago. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio, and it remains the single most pivotal state in presidential elections. That status is giving an added intensity to the battle over voting rights there. The Ohio House could vote as soon as Wednesday on two GOP-backed bills. One would cut early voting from 35 to 28 or 29 days. More importantly, it would end the so-called “Golden Week” period when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day—a key way to bring new voters into the process.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
Ohio: Are Libertarians becoming a third key player in Ohio’s statewide elections? Party again filed a full slate of candidates | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Elections in Ohio are traditionally two-party affairs, with the alternative parties putting up candidates for a smattering of races. But has Ohio moved toward having three regular participants in its statewide contests? Two political scientists told Northeast Ohio Media Group this week that the the Libertarian Party of Ohio might become a credible third party because of divisions among Republicans. Libertarians this week filed a full slate of candidates for the partisan statewide contests that are up for election in November. Charlie Earl, a former Republican state representative, and Sherry Clark topped that ticket as candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. The party also put up candidates for auditor of state, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.
Ohio: Voters Bill of Rights aims to end partisan interference with voting rights | Cleveland Plain Dealer
If proponents can gather the required 385,247 voter signatures, Ohioans this fall may be asked to add an Ohio Voters Bill of Rights to the state constitution. The amendment’s centerpiece is a declaration that voting is a fundamental right in Ohio. Legalese aside, that statement would make it much tougher for Statehouse partisans to try to mess with voting rights, especially the voting rights of black Ohioans, something some (not all) General Assembly Republicans have repeatedly tried to do. Procedurally, the wording of the proposal is now awaiting clearance from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Then, after state Ballot Board review, the official committee calling for the measure, which includes two Greater Clevelanders, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr. and Rep. Vernon Sykes, an Akron Democrat, can begin seeking petition signatures from Ohio voters.
Ohio: Election history will repeat itself in Ohio districts drawn to favor one party or the other | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Any way you define “suspense,” the word doesn’t apply to Ohio’s November election, at least as to General Assembly and congressional contests. Districts drawn by Republicans favor Republicans, and so the legislature will continue to be Republican-run, and even though Ohio twice voted for Barack Obama, most of Ohio’s U.S. House members will be Republican. Yes, history proves that Ohio Democrats, when they could, drew tilted districts, though that was a while ago. Yes also, when Democrats last ran the Ohio House, they cold-shouldered a reasonable plan to at least try to make Ohio General Assembly and congressional districts less one-sided. Drawing tilted maps is called “gerrymandering,” named for a Massachusetts governor, Gerry (rhymes with “Gary”), who signed a slanted remap in the Bay State in 1812. So, if Democrats somehow run the Ohio General Assembly in 2021, after 2020’s census, they’ll draw Ohio’s congressional districts to suit Democrats. If Republicans run things, they’ll do the same for the GOP.
With the Hamilton County Board of Elections members in a 2-2 political deadlock over a proposal to move its headquarters to the former Mercy Hospital in Mt. Airy in the College Hill area. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted may be the one to cast the deciding vote. The stalemate came at the Jan. 27 Board of Elections meeting following a public hearing on the issue, during which Republicans and Democrats expressed the pros and cons of it. Speakers on the Republican side said the move would be a sound financial decision in that it saves the county $700,000 in annual rental now paid for the Downtown office on Broadway, and Democrats opposed it as another move to suppress and disenfranchise voters. The Mt. Airy site is offered at no cost to the County. Cincinnati City Council members are unanimously against the move, following a vote on the issue.
A plan to accept Mercy Health-Mount Airy Hospital as a gift and convert it into the Hamilton County crime lab is in limbo after a tie vote by the county’s Board of Elections, which under a county plan would move there, too. Republicans want to move the Board of Elections to Mount Airy, saying it would be more efficient than the current operation, is closer to more county voters and has better parking. Democrats want at the least to keep early voting Downtown, near the public transportation hub. In the 2012 presidential election, more than 24,000 people voted early, in-person, at the Downtown location. The four-member board Monday twice voted 2-2 along party lines, first on whether to move board offices and early voting to the former hospital in Mount Airy, the second time to move the office but keep early voting Downtown. Ohio law calls for Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to break the tie – if he wants to. Husted, who is running for re-election in November, could determine the issue is local and stay out of it. A spokesman said Husted is encouraging the board to “take another look at it.”
Ahead of the November election, it may get more difficult to vote in Ohio, the quintessential swing state. The GOP-dominated General Assembly is pushing a collection of bills that sponsors – most from Southwest Ohio – say will make voting more fair, secure and efficient. Civil rights leaders and Democrats, however, say the provisions discriminate against the poor and harken back to post-Civil War laws intended to keep African-Americans from voting. Some of the changes would take away conveniences in Ohio’s voting system – for instance, eliminating the chance for someone to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. To state Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township, the potential extra trouble is worth the gains: “Uniformity across the state, cleaning up that process to make it crystal clear as to what everyone’s responsibilities are.”
Black legislative leaders, clergy and civil rights advocates today announced a statewide effort to amend the Ohio Constitution to ensure protections for Ohio voters. The Voter Bill of Rights will prevent the erosion of voting rights, supporters said, by placing them in state constitution. “We come to represent constituents, memberships, average citizens who have been crying out to protect voting rights,” Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat and president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, told supporters at a lunchtime rally at Trinity Baptist Church on Columbus’ near east side. “These are the same citizens who have had to be targeted by voter intimidation billboards.
Ohio’s election chief has set the hours and days that residents can vote early for the May primary election, saying it was necessary because the Legislature has failed to put uniform times into law. Voters can cast an absentee ballot early by mail or in person without giving any reason. The 2012 presidential election cycle in Ohio was marked by several disputes over early voting rules, including a lawsuit brought by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Secretary of State Jon Husted said Wednesday that he’s repeatedly asked the General Assembly to write the hours into law, but members have not acted.
The state of Ohio agreed to a settlement Monday with voting awareness groups Judicial Watch and True the Vote, effectively ending a lawsuit that lasted almost a year and a half. The case dates to August 2012, when the groups claimed Secretary of State Jon Husted hadn’t taken reasonable steps to keep ineligible voters out of polling places. Monday’s settlement, which involves no money, established nine criteria for Husted’s office to follow, ensuring compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, known widely as the “Motor Voter” Act.