It’s unlikely to happen, but voters could elect two different congressmen to fill John Boehner’s vacated seat in the March primary. That’s because Ohio Gov. John Kasich has chosen to conduct the primary for Boehner’s unfinished 6-month term and the two-year term on the same date. And since the Speaker of the House resigned in the middle of his term, voters must choose a replacement and someone to serve the next full term, which begins in 2017. That means any candidate running for both will appear on the March ballot twice. When asked about the date, Joshua Eck, press secretary for Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, could not think of any examples when this had been done before. Husted, Ohio’s chief elections officer, is responsible for setting the election calendar and deadlines for those elections.
Lawmakers may actually be nearing a long elusive bipartisan compromise to change the highly partisan way Ohio redraws state legislative districts every 10 years. But don’t look for a solution anytime soon on how legislators redraw congressional districts as the newly strengthened Republican majority in Washington has frowned on changing a system that has worked to its advantage. The Ohio House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment to increase minority input into maps for 99 state House and 33 state Senate districts and improve the chances that races will be more competitive. The Senate president has introduced his own plan in the upper chamber that is also in position for a potential vote this week, likely the last before lawmakers wrap up the two-year session and head for the Statehouse doors for the holidays.
A bipartisan House plan to change the way Ohio draws legislative districts drew high marks from an election-law expert who three weeks ago had no kind words for the House Republicans’ initial proposal. The compromise plan “would be a very significant improvement over the status quo,” said Dan Tokaji, professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Unlike the current system, in which the party that controls at least three of the five seats on the apportionment board can rig the legislative districts to protect its majority and create a host of noncompetitive districts, Tokaji said the new plan contains a number of improvements. “Redistricting reform goes to our fundamental right to vote,” he said. “If lines are drawn in such a way that virtually every general-election contest for the legislature is meaningless and we know the outcome in advance, that destroys voters’ faith in the system.”
Ohio: Redistricting proposal would give majority party more power, critics say | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Critics say new proposals intended to make Ohio’s process for drawing congressional and legislative district lines less partisan would actually make gerrymandering worse. Rep. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, introduced a pair of resolutions last week intended to amplify minority party members’ voices on the panels that draw the lines. Dan Tokaji, a law professor at OSU’s Moritz College of Law, said the proposals also remove safeguards that allow Ohio citizens and public officials to challenge newly drawn district maps. Tokaji said the resolutions don’t allow a citizen-initiated referendum or a governor’s veto of the congressional map approved by state lawmakers. “This will ensure the majority party can ram through the plan they want without any votes from the minority party and any realistic plan of it being reversed,” Tokaji told reporters Monday.
In the 2012 elections, a Redistricting Amendment to the Ohio Constitution was put on the ballot. Known as Issue 2, the amendment would have created a commission of twelve citizens to draw legislative and congressional maps. The amendment was defeated at the ballot box by a resounding 63% against and 37% for the amendment. To many, partisan redistricting is only a polite way of saying gerrymandering, and this very process of the state legislature choosing who will essentially elect them is provided for in the Ohio Constitution. In fact, the Secretary of State of Ohio, John Husted, wrote in the Washington Post this February, “[I]f government is to be more responsive, it is not the people but the Ohio Constitution that needs to change.” However, it may very well be the case that John Husted was the reason for Issue 2 failing at the ballot box. In 2012 I was an undergraduate student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I received my absentee ballot in the mail and started working my way through it. After wondering to myself “Why in the world am I electing members of the Judiciary?” I reached the part of the ballot pertaining to Issues. The first, Ohio’s twenty year option to hold a constitutional convention to “revise, alter, or amend the constitution,” and after that a two column monstrosity of an issue that made me cringe. I must confess, I voted against it. I thought it looked too complicated and surely there could be an easier way to redistrict.
Voting Blogs: Context and Pretext: Why the Courts Were Right to Halt Ohio’s Latest Voting Restrictions | Dan Tokaji/Election Law Blog
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the district court’s ruling in in NAACP v. Husted, which stopped new restrictions on early voting from taking effect. This decision is good news for Ohio voters. It faithfully applies existing law to the evidence admitted in the district court, maintaining the established period for same day registration and early voting. The federal courts have done their job by safeguarding voters against partisan manipulation of election rules. This comment explains why the ruling is correct and why Ohio’s call to stay the existing court order should be rejected, especially now that same day registration and early voting are just about to begin. NAACP v. Husted concerns a state law passed earlier this year eliminating Ohio’s limited window for same day registration and early voting, commonly referred to as “Golden Week.”* During this week (September 30-October 6 this year), voters can simultaneously register and cast their ballots in person. Tens of thousands of voters voted in this period the past two presidential elections, with thousands using the opportunity for same day registration and early voting. The evidence presented in the lower court showed that African American, low-income, and homeless voters were more likely to use this voting opportunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction, based on its conclusion that the NAACP and other plaintiffs had shown likely violations of both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
By “Kobach,” I mean the Kobach v. EAC case in which the Tenth Circuit heard oral argument Monday – rather than its lead plaintiff, Kansas’ controversial Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who argued the position of his state and the State of Arizona. This post discusses what’s at issue in the case, where the district court went wrong, and what the Tenth Circuit should do. Kobach involves a narrow but important issue, left unresolved after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. That case involved Arizona’s attempt to impose a proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration, an issue that has been percolating for many years. Arizona law requires would-be voters to provide documents proving their citizenship when they register, documents that some eligible citizens don’t have. But the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires states to “accept and use” the national voter registration form, commonly known as the “federal form.” And that form’s instructions don’t require documentary proof of citizenship. In Arizona, the Supreme Court said that states must register voters who used the federal form, even without these documents. But the Court allowed Arizona to ask the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to add the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement to the federal form. That’s exactly what Arizona, along with Kansas, sought to do. But there’s a problem. The EAC had no sitting commissioners – hasn’t had any for years, in fact, due to gridlock in Congress. With no Commissioners to vote on the states’ requests, they went to federal court to force the commissioner-less EAC to incorporate their proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal form’s instructions.
One day before Arizona’s primary election, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver heard arguments Monday on the constitutionality of voters having to prove citizenship through a passport or birth certificate before they can register to vote. Arizona and Kansas have both passed laws requiring voters to prove citizenship before they can register. That is stricter than federal law, which requires a voter simply to affirm U.S. citizenship in writing. On Tuesday, Arizona voters who have not proved their citizenship to the state’s satisfaction will be able to cast ballots only for U.S. Congress — not for governor or any other state offices. Kansas held such a two-tier primary earlier this month. “The Founding Fathers didn’t want that,” said Kansas Atty. Gen. Kris Kobach, who argued the case for both states. “They are using the federal form as a lever to displace the state’s power,” he said in an interview after the hearing. Supporters contend such laws prevent voter fraud. Opponents maintain that the real motivation is to make it more difficult for minorities and the poor to vote.
Voting rights advocates are girding for a series of crucial battles that will play out over the next twelve months in Congress, in the courts, and in state legislatures. Victories could go a long way to reversing the setbacks of the last year. Defeats could help cement a new era in which voting is more difficult, especially for racial minorities, students, and the poor. Despite some scattered efforts by states to improve voting access, the right to vote took a big step backwards last year. Republican legislatures in states across the country continued to advance restrictive voting laws, while a major Supreme Court ruling, Shelby County v. Holder, badly weakened the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Wendy Weiser, who runs the Democracy program at the Brenan Center for Justice, called Shelby “the single biggest blow to voting rights in decades.”
The Hamilton County Board of Elections spent the year investigating voter fraud allegations. In the end, six people were charged, and another 42 referred to the secretary of state, who oversees voting for Ohio. An Enquirer review of the local cases showed that, except for one criminally convicted poll worker, it amounted to a few people who stepped over the line in their zealousness to vote. Ultimately, Hamilton County’s 48 cases represented 0.011 percentof the 421,997 votes cast in Hamilton County’s 2012 general election. “Oftentimes we see dramatic allegations of rampant voter fraud,” said Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor and election law expert. “But the more deeply you look, the less fraud there really is. “That’s not to say there’s isn’t any,” he added. “People cheat.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, stung by the Supreme Court’s decision gutting federal power to pre-emptively strike at state voting laws, opened a new front in the Obama administration’s fight against election laws it views as discriminatory. The first target in what Holder says may become a multi-state effort is Texas. In the face of strong objections from the state’s top officials, the Justice Department will ask a federal court to require Texas to obtain approval from the government or a federal court before making voting-law changes. “It’s very significant, but not at all surprising,” Dan Tokaji, a law professor who focuses on election law and voting rights at Ohio State University’s Moritz College Law. “It’s best viewed as a Band-Aid rather than an inoculation, which is what the old regime was.”
Voting Blogs: Is The Voter Vigilante Group True The Vote Violating Ohio Law to Intimidate Voters at the Polls? | Alternet
A right-wing voter vigilante group, TrueTheVote, may be pushing their anti-democratic agenda into illegal territory in Ohio by interfering with that state’s official poll worker training regimen one week before the 2012 presidential election. In recent weeks, the Texas-based group, with many local affiliates drawn from Tea Party ranks, has been urging poll workers in key Ohio counties—primarily Republicans—to supplement their official state training with TrueTheVote materials. These Election Day workers are not the observers chosen by political parties who can watch but not interfere with voting; they are the people who are drawn from both parties and employed by the state to run the voting process.
Less than two weeks ahead of Election Day, only one thing seems clear amongst the constant noise about Big Bird, a nuclear Iran, and bayonets and horses: the presidency will hinge on how Ohio votes. Ohioans seem to be taking their task seriously: 7.9 million residents are registered to vote, and more than 800,000 Ohioans have already cast their ballot for president, according to data released Tuesday by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office. Ohio voters will have 246 hours to vote in person before Election Day and 750 hours to cast their absentee ballots; 1.6 million Ohioans have requested or cast an absentee ballot for the general election, and almost 6.9 million absentee ballot applications have been sent out.