Between 1.5 million and 2.3 million Ohioans are eligible to vote but can’t because they are not registered. Secretary of State Jon Husted is going after every one of them, hoping to sign them up in this presidential election year. An estimated 80,000 already on Ohio’s voter registration rolls are also registered in other states, while 360,000 need to update their registration because they’ve moved within Ohio. Husted is going after every one of them, too. Unless they fix their registration they will either be forced to cast a provisional ballot or be purged from the list. Fueled by a $400,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Ohio is joining the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit group that includes 20 states. So in the end, will the effort generate more or fewer registered voters in Ohio? “That’s the $64,000 question,” said David Becker, Pew’s director of election initiatives, who attended a Statehouse news conference Tuesday with Husted. Becker said that when other states signed up with ERIC, the twin efforts to register new voters and purge those ineligible essentially wound up canceling each other out.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
A Senate bill was passed that would make it more difficult for citizens to petition a court to keep polling places open after hours on Election Day in Ohio. People seeking to keep the polls open after hours for emergency reasons would have to pay a cash bond to be determined by a judge. The legislation, Senate bill 296, was sponsored by Cincinnati Republican Sen. Bill Seitz and was passed along a purely party-line vote in both the House and Senate. It will go to the Governor’s desk to be either signed or vetoed. Regarding his legislation, Seitz stated “most courts to consider the question (of keeping polls open longer) have held that the courts have no power to extend Election Day voting hours because the legislature, and not the courts, set the voting hours. Sadly, in both the November 2015 and March 2016 elections, rogue courts in Hamilton County issued orders extending polling hours. These orders cost Hamilton County taxpayers $57,000, and forced the inside poll workers to stay around for an extra 60 to 90 minutes after already working a 14-hour day.”
Ohio: Federal judge finds Ohio laws on absentee and provisional ballots violate U.S. Constitution | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A federal judge on Tuesday threw out provisions in Ohio’s law that had voided absentee and provisional ballots for technical flaws made by otherwise qualified voters. In a lawsuit filed by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the Ohio Democratic Party, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley ruled that the laws violated provisions of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that require citizens receive equal protection under the law. Marbley also ruled that the state’s attempt to shorten a period from 10 to 7 days during which voters could fix those technical flaws was also unconstitutional, as was a provision that forbid poll workers from helping to fill out the ballot forms unless the voter declared he or she was either illiterate or disabled. Witnesses in a voting rights case in federal court said this week that in 2014 some legitimate ballots were rejected, while in other cases flaw ballots were counted. The case involves a lawsuit by advocates for the homeless and Ohio Democrats who are challenging the constitutionality of some Ohio election laws.
Betsy Heer spent her birthday in November 2004 standing in a cold rain, waiting 10½ hours to vote. She’s runs a bed-and-breakfast in the tiny town of Gambier, Ohio. Many of the 1,300 people who joined her in line were students at Kenyon College. “So yeah, it was exhausting and it was exciting and it was frustrating and it was all those things. But it definitely was democracy in action.” And in nearly every election since, Heer has opted instead to vote early. The reason she can is an overhaul of Ohio’s early voting laws spurred by what one judge called the “disastrous” 2004 election. The changes helped make election days smooth. But they’ve also created cycle of laws and lawsuits that make courts in Ohio a big player in the national debate over voter access. “They know how to ski in Colorado, we know how to litigate elections in Ohio,” laughs Ned Foley, director of Ohio State University’s election-law program. He notes that the fights in Ohio include one that’s been dragging on for a decade. There are battles over rejected ballots and efforts to eliminate “Souls to the Polls” Sunday. Over purging voter rolls and eliminating same-day registration-and-voting.
With the vocal support of GOP legislative leaders Wednesday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed the latest of two voting rights rulings against the state, blaming them for creating “ chaos and voter confusion.” “Unfortunately, in the time span of just two weeks, the integrity of our elections has been jeopardized as two federal judges have issued decisions that directly conflict with each other and put our elections process in limbo with no clear path forward absent a clear ruling from the appellate court,” Husted said. Democrats who won both court cases say if the Republicans want someone to blame for “chaos” in Ohio’s voting laws, they should look in the mirror. “Their handiwork continues to violate the Constitution — that’s where the chaos and confusion comes from,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “They’re just playing games at this point.”
Doug Chapin knows it’s a cliche, but he can’t help himself when asked to explain why our state sees so many bitter battles over voting. “I think Ohio just ends up being the epicenter of the perfect storm,” says the elections-law expert with the University of Minnesota. He cites three reasons: No state is a more reliable barometer of presidential elections; few, if any, states have a more powerful secretary of state; and “the level of mutual partisan distrust in Ohio is as high as anyplace.” In case you’re skeptical of the latter point, you should listen to the litany Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper throws at GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted. Pepper, who teaches election law as an adjunct at the University of Cincinnati, points to how Husted and other state officials have been shot down “over and over and over and over” in various courts for trying to restrict Ohioans’ voting rights in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Chad McCullough, 44, was born in Ohio and has lived in Butler County for about nine or 10 years, he says. Last November, McCullough and his wife made their way to the local polling station in southwest Ohio to cast their ballots. But as he attempted to exercise his right to participate in the democratic process, a poll worker told him that he couldn’t find his name on the voter registration list — McCullough was no longer registered. “I had no idea that my voter registration could be cancelled, even if I did not move,” McCullough said. McCullough is among tens of thousands of voters in Ohio, many from low-income neighborhoods and who typically vote for Democratic candidates, who have been deemed ineligible to vote by Ohio election officials last year simply because they haven’t voted enough — a move that disenfranchises voters and is illegal, voting rights advocates say. McCullough’s comments are now part of a federal lawsuit against Ohio’s Secretary of State — a legal action that has spurred heavy debate among voting rights activists and elected officials during the 2016 election cycle.
When Larry Harmon tried to vote on a marijuana initiative in November in his hometown of Kent, Ohio, the 59-year-old software engineer found his name had been struck from the voter rolls. Two hours south in Zanesville, restaurant worker Chris Conrad, 37, was also told he was no longer registered. Both men later found out why: they had not voted often enough. As the Nov. 8 elections loom, officials in Ohio have removed tens of thousands of voters from registration lists because they have not cast a ballot since 2008. All U.S. states periodically cleanse their voter rolls, but only a handful remove voters simply because they don’t vote on a regular basis. And nowhere could the practice have a greater potential impact in the state-by-state battle for the White House than Ohio, a swing state that has backed the winner in every presidential election since 1960. Voters of all stripes in Ohio are affected, but the policy appears to be helping Republicans in the state’s largest metropolitan areas, according to a Reuters survey of voter lists. In the state’s three largest counties that include Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, voters have been struck from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at roughly twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods.
With Ohio set to once again be a pivotal swing state this fall, the state’s Republicans are looking to restrict access to the voting booth—extending a sprawling battle over voting in the Buckeye State that has raged for more than a decade. A recent court ruling foiled the GOP’s bid to end same-day voter registration—for now. But a controversial new Republican-backed bill would make it harder to keep polls open late if unforeseen problems arise, as they have in the past. Meanwhile, the state’s top election official is being sued over a controversial purge of the voter rolls. And even a measure to let voters register online that has won GOP support is nonetheless causing controversy. The stakes in Ohio could hardly be higher. The state is shaping up to reprise its status as a crucial battleground in the presidential election this November. It also hosts a tight U.S. Senate race between incumbent GOP Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland that could help determine control of the chamber.
Ohio: State asks federal judge to delay reinstating ‘Golden Week’ allowing registration, voting | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Ohio has asked a federal judge in Columbus to hold off enforcing an order requiring the state to allow voting during Golden Week, when voters can both register to vote and cast an in-person absentee ballot. U.S. District Judge Michael Watson last week struck down a state law that eliminated Golden Week, ruling that the 2014 law violates both the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That law shortened early voting from 35 days before an election to 28. Husted said then that the state would appeal the ruling.