Here’s the bottom line to the seeming never-ending fuss over Ohio’s voting laws: Democrats like looser voting restrictions because that generally means more Democratic votes. Republicans are just the opposite. That’s not to say each side doesn’t have honest concerns about issues ranging from voter fraud to access to the ballot box. But the shape of partisan battle lines over proposed changes to voting laws is one of the easiest to predict, both in Ohio and nationwide. What that means for voters is an ever-shifting set of rules as lawmakers enact changes followed by inevitable legal challenges, resulting in months of uncertainty that sometimes is not resolved until shortly before the election. For example: The GOP-run legislature and Republican Gov. John Kasich passed legislation to ban the so-called Golden Week, a period of five days before Election Day during which Ohioans could register to vote and cast an early ballot at the same time. A lower federal court threw out the change. An appeals court panel restored it. Now that decision has been appealed.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
Ohio: Democrats to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate Golden Week in voting suit | Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Ohio Democratic Party will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate Golden Week voting for the November presidential election. The request will be part of an appeal to the Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging the state’s attempt to shorten the early voting period to eliminate the week. Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, in a phone interview Wednesday, said the appeal will be filed quickly, perhaps in a matter of days. “There’s just no reason not to allow the same process that’s been place for the last two cycles,” Pepper said. “The least harmful path is to give a stay and leave in place what was involved (for presidential elections) in ’08 and ’12.” The Ohio Democratic Party and Montgomery and Cuyahoga County Democratic parties are challenging changes in state law that reduced the early voting period from 35 days to 28 days. The reduction eliminated Golden Week, the only time people could register to vote at their elections board and then vote early in-person the same day.
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. That’s the most likely route to reversing the ruling, said nationally known elections expert Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine.
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.