Election Day is so 2007. Welcome to the start of Election Month in Ohio. “Just sitting back and waiting for people to turn out on Election Day is a fool’s errand,” said Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. With the growing popularity of casting ballots ahead of time, the fate of statewide elections, county races and local issues will be decided beginning Tuesday at early-voting centers across the Buckeye State — four weeks before polls open on Election Day, Nov. 4. Borges said he expects 11 percent of this year’s turnout to come in the first week of early voting. “I think what it does is it just moves everything up,” said Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald.
Cuyahoga County voters will decide in November whether to approve a charter amendment that county officials hope will provide them with more authority to file lawsuits to stop or overturn restrictions on voting rights. County council approved a measure to put the amendment on the ballot by an 8-3 vote, with council’s three Republicans dissenting. The measure was sponsored by Councilwoman Sunny Simon at the urging of county executive and Democratic governor candidate Ed FitzGerald. FitzGerald said Wednesday that the charter amendment would strengthen Cuyahoga County’s legal position should it need to sue over voting rules as several groups are now doing. He said attorneys in the county law department worry that a judge might not allow the county to sue because county boards of elections, and not county government, oversee voting. “We’re anticipating legal arguments down the line,” FitzGerald said.
Ohio: Cuyahoga County Council gives final approval to Ed FitzGerald’s ‘voting rights law’ | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cuyahoga County Council voted along party lines Tuesday night to assert the county’s right to mail unsolicited absentee ballot applications, despite a new state law that forbids the county from doing so. Identical to a preliminary committee vote last week, eight council Democrats voted to approve County Executive Ed FitzGerald’s “voting rights law,” with council’s three Republican members dissenting. The ordinance says the county will mail postage prepaid voting applications to county voters as necessary. FitzGerald, a Democrat who is running for governor, said the county would only do so if the state doesn’t. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has said he will mail the applications statewide before the upcoming November election, but any future mailings would require approval from the state legislature.
Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted sees ‘no reason’ for lawmakers to punish Cuyahoga County for ballot mailers | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Secretary of State Jon Husted on Tuesday criticized his Republican colleagues in the legislature for threatening to slash state funding to Cuyahoga County if the county proceeds with plans to mail absentee ballot applications to voters. At the same time, Husted said that there’s no reason for Cuyahoga County to mail absentee ballot applications to all county voters, as his office is already planning to do that statewide this fall. “It’s time for everybody to take a deep breath and act like reasonable adults,” Husted said in an interview Tuesday.
Ohio Republicans have backed down on an effort to penalize the state’s largest county for sending out absentee ballots. But the escalating battle over voting rights in the nation’s most pivotal swing state shows no sign of subsiding—with one top Democrat calling for a federal probe of GOP voter suppression. A spokesman for House Republicans said Tuesday afternoon that the GOP would drop a measure that would have cut funding by 10% for any county that doesn’t follow state law regarding absentee ballots. The proposal, inserted Monday into a larger budget bill, was a direct shot at the state’s largest county, Cuyahoga, which has asserted the right to mail absentee ballots to all registered voters—in defiance of a recently passed state law barring counties from doing so. Hours later, the Cuyahoga council voted to assert its “home rule” power, giving it the authority to send absentee ballots to all registered voters in the county.
State Auditor Dave Yost’s comments about the possibility of getting into Cuyahoga County officials’ pocketbooks should increase the odds of a federal probe of voting in Ohio, the county’s law director says. “Going after the personal finances of public officials for trying to promote voter participation is unprecedented,” said Majeed G. Makhlouf. “I think we expect the Department of Justice to take the threat to voting rights pretty seriously.” At issue is a new law passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich saying that the secretary of state’s office is the only government agency that can send out absentee ballot applications.
After a day of controversy, House Republicans decided to pull a measure aimed at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald that would have cut local government funding to any county mailing absentee ballot applications. House GOP spokesman Mike Dittoe explained the move by saying, “State Auditor Dave Yost, through a letter issued in August 2011 that surfaced today, contends that he already has such authority to issue findings of recovery to county officials who may be in violation of the law for this practice.” However, FitzGerald and Cuyahoga County Council defied state officials this evening by voting 8 to 3 to OK the mailing of absentee ballot applications to all Cuyahoga County voters. “Tonight, we sent a clear message to Columbus – Cuyahoga County will not be intimidated when it comes to protecting the right to vote,” said FitzGerald in a statement. “This fight is just getting started, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with the members of our County Council to stand up to anyone who wants to suppress the vote in Ohio.”
Ohio: Ed FitzGerald’s ‘voting rights’ legislation clears Cuyahoga council committee; Republicans dissent | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A Cuyahoga County Council committee voted along party lines Tuesday to advance “voter rights” legislation that conflicts with a new state law, a move which takes the county closer to what Republican council members said could end up being a costly legal fight. The eight Democrats on council’s committee of the whole – which is made up of all 11 council members — voted to move forward with legislation introduced last month by county Executive Ed FitzGerald, a fellow Democrat, while the council’s three Republicans dissented. The move indicates council is poised to approve the legislation, which would assert the county’s right to mail out unsolicited early voting applications and addressed envelopes with pre-paid postage to all its registered voters, at an upcoming meeting. The legislation is a response to a new state law, passed by Republicans in Columbus in February, that forbids counties from mailing out the applications. The new law allows the Ohio Secretary of State to send them out, statewide, if lawmakers appropriate money to pay for it — Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says he plans to do so this November. Republicans say the new law promotes voting equality across all Ohio’s 88 counties.
Charles Earl is trying to run for governor of Ohio. A native of Bowling Green, the one-time Republican state representative now represents the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO). As the LPO’s gubernatorial candidate, Earl would challenge current Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democrat Ed Fitzgerald come November 2014, possibly siphoning off dissatisfied Ohio voters from Kasich. But Earl’s candidacy is currently in limbo. Last week, Earl received a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted disqualifying him from the May primary ballot. Earl was disqualified on the grounds that those circulating petitions for his inclusion weren’t Libertarian Party members and/or failed to disclose themselves as paid LPO employees.
The effort by Ohio Republicans to make voting harder in the nation’s most pivotal swing state has triggered a furious response—one that could yet succeed in fighting off some of the worst effects of the new restrictions. “Since these bills have been passed, we have seen an incredible response from all corners of the state,” State Senator Nina Turner, who has helped lead the effort, told msnbc. “Ohioans are just plain tired of their ballot access being made into a political tool. From local leaders stepping out, to the court system, to the ballot, we are seeing the people push back against an effort to limit their voice using all the tools at their disposal.” Last month, Ohio lawmakers passed GOP-backed bills that cut six days of early voting, ended same-day voter registration, made it harder to vote absentee, and made it more likely that provisional ballots will be rejected. Just days after the bills were signed, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican,announced the elimination of Sunday voting, effectively ending the “Souls to the Polls” drives organized in recent years by many African-American churches.
Republican Gov. John Kasich has signed into law three bills that change the procedures for voting in Ohio. The measures were rammed through the GOP- controlled General Assembly, with proponents arguing, among other things, that they are designed to combat voter fraud. Not surprisingly, Democrats have been quick to respond, accusing the Republicans who control every statewide administrative office and six of the seven Supreme Court seats of attempting to restrict voting. The arguments from both sides should ring familiar. They have been used in previous battles over voting in Ohio. The GOP contends that unrestricted access to the polls is a recipe for disaster; the Democratic Party counters that voter suppression is at the heart of the Republican campaign. It notes that urban areas are hardest hit by the changes in voting procedures, with black voters, who mostly support Democratic candidates, being dissuaded from going to the polls.
Ohio: FitzGerald introduces voting legislation that contradicts recently-passed state law | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has formally submitted legislation to County Council asserting his right to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the county, a move that would be in direct contradiction to a recently-passed state law. FitzGerald, a Democrat who is running for governor, released the legislation — which he has deemed the “Cuyahoga County Voting Rights Law” — late Wednesday. The bill’s text says that despite any state laws to the contrary, the county will promote voter registration and promote “early voting and maximizing voter participation through voting by mail in Cuyahoga County, including, but not limited to, mailing applications to vote by mail, with postage-prepaid return envelopes, to all registered voters in Cuyahoga County.”
Making good on a promise, the leader of Ohio’s largest county is taking legal action to counteract the state legislature’s new restrictions on early voting. And since the Cuyahoga County executive, Ed FitzGerald, is also a candidate for governor, that means he could be matched in a court challenge against current Gov. John Kasich. FitzGerald rolled out a series of actions during a press conference this morning outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Last Friday, Kasich signed Senate Bill 238, which eliminates “Golden Week” – when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day – by shortening early voting by a week. He also signed Senate Bill 205, which makes legislative approval a requirement before the secretary of state can mail out absentee-ballot applications statewide, and forbids counties from doing so on their own.
Ohio: Cuyahoga County considering legal action against election bills, FitzGerald says | The Columbus Dispatch
Gov. John Kasich signed two GOP-sponsored bills today that shorten early voting in Ohio and change the process for mailing absentee ballot applications statewide, potentially inviting a legal challenge from his likely Democratic opponent. Kasich put his name on Senate Bill 238 — which eliminates “Golden Week,” when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day — and Senate Bill 205, which requires the approval of the legislature for the secretary of state to mail absentee applications statewide. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, who also serves as the elected Cuyahoga County executive, said he has asked his county law director to review the two bills and is considering taking legal action. “We’ve done that before,” FitzGerald said. “We are the only county in Ohio that when they tried to change the election rules at the last minute in 2012, of course there was a lawsuit over that, there was only one county in Ohio that filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief.
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature now on two Republican-sponsored bills that reduce early voting, eyes turn toward his likely Democratic challenger to see if he follows through on a threat to challenge the new laws in court. Yesterday, Kasich signed Senate Bill 238, which eliminates “Golden Week” — when Ohioans could register and vote on the same day — and shortens early voting by a week. He also signed Senate Bill 205, which makes legislative approval a requirement before the secretary of state can mail out absentee-ballot applications statewide. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, who also is the elected Cuyahoga County executive, said he has asked his county law director to review the two new laws for possible legal action. “We’ve done that before,” said FitzGerald, who emailed supporters after Kasich signed the bills to say he was “livid.”
The debate over unsolicited absentee voter applications first heated up in the fall of 2011. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wanted to send these forms to every voter in his county, which gives those individuals a chance to request an absentee ballot. Secretary of State Jon Husted disagreed with FitzGerald because of the lack of uniformity it would bring among the other counties. As part of a compromise, FitzGerald agreed to hold off on sending out the applications and instead, Husted’s office mailed them to voters throughout the entire state for 2012’s presidential election. Now Republican Senator Bill Coley, of southwest Ohio, wants to lock down the rules on these applications in state law. His proposed bill says the Secretary of State can mail unsolicited applications for absentee voter ballots, but only on an even-numbered year and only if the General Assembly provides the money.
Many Cuyahoga County voters still believe they will receive absentee ballot applications by mail this fall, despite a much-publicized decision by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to ban unsolicited mailings by boards of elections.
A nonprofit group distributing thousands of ballot applications across the county reported this week that a majority of the people contacted the last three weekends knew little or nothing about Husted’s ruling and were expecting to receive applications in the mail. “We have a major problem here,” said Norman Robbins, research director of the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates.
The Cuyahoga County Elections Board kicked off an absentee voting campaign Thursday by asking more than 400 local organizations to place an application link on their websites. The vote-by-mail campaign is in response to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive Aug. 22 forbidding county boards of elections from mailing unsolicited ballot applications. This is a way to broaden the outlets through which voters can access applications.
County election officials said in a news release that they expect to reach thousands of voters by having organizations post application links. Voters who don’t have computer access can call the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections at 216-443-3298 to request a ballot application. Applications are also available at libraries and online.
Jane Platten, executive director of the county Board of Elections, said staff members sent the web link to every mayor, city council member and library in the county, hoping they will post an icon on their home pages. The board is also targeting major employers, such as MetroHealth Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic.
Voting Blogs: The Treaty of Cuyahoga: Compromise on Absentee Ballots Will Yield Interesting Data | PEEA
Last week, I wrote about the looming Battle of Cuyahoga, where a dispute over absentee ballot applications pitted Ohio Secretary of Jon Husted against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
Late last week, the two men met and reached a compromise: Cuyahoga agreed not to defy the state and mail absentee ballot applications in 2011, while the state agreed to allow all Ohio counties to mail such applications in advance of 2012. The compromise defuses the immediate controversy, but it also will allow the election community in Ohio and across the nation to evaluate a few key questions about absentee ballots.
Amid the furious fireworks of today’s politics, there came a brief, welcome moment of quiet Friday. It was the sound of compromise. As we noted earlier this week, what appeared to be partisan warfare had broken out between Ohio’s chief elections official and the leader of Cuyahoga County government. The issue: whether counties are free to mail unsolicited applications for absentee ballots to their residents if other counties can’t afford to do so.
Yes, Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said — it is good public service. No, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said — it is unfair. As their argument rolled on, they threw wilder and wilder rhetorical punches. Some Cuyahoga votes might not be counted! The U.S. Department of Justice might intervene!
Ohio: County, state officials reach resolution in Ohio battle over absentee ballot applications | The Republic
Ohio will mail absentee ballot request forms to voters in all counties ahead of the 2012 presidential election, settling a dispute between the state’s top election official and the leader of the state’s largest county.
As part of the agreement announced Friday, Cuyahoga County officials agreed not to send out unsolicited mailings for absentee ballots for this year’s general election.
Cuyahoga County officials in Cleveland had threatened to defy Secretary of State Jon Husted’s order barring county elections boards from mailing the unsolicited applications. The county’s council earlier in the week authorized mailings to all registered voters. That led to a meeting Thursday in Columbus where Husted, a Republican, and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat, worked out the compromise.
The war of words over the future of mass-mailed ballot applications in Cuyahoga County continues. On his personal blog, State Auditor Dave Yost has a post called “The Wreck of the Edward FitzGerald.” He is saber-rattling over Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerld’s plan to continue mass mailing ballot applications to all registered voters in Cuyahoga County.
Secretary of State Jon Husted banned such mailing by boards of elections because most could not afford them and he insisted on uniformity of election procedures. FitzGerald countered with a plan to have the county, not the election board, pay for and handle the mailings. That cost is likely to be about $330,000. After lots of angry words, Husted said he would not block FitzGerald’s plan.
But now Auditor Yost says he told FitzGerald, “if (you) spend money without any authority to do so, next years’ (audit) finding could include a large finding for recovery.”
Cuyahoga County’s Department of Public Works is seeking bids for help with the project approved by Cuyahoga County Council Monday evening to send a vote-by-mail application to all active Cuyahoga County voters.
The request for bids was approved Monday morning by Cuyahoga County’s Executive Board of Control in advance of the County Council’s Monday evening vote. Specifically, county government seeks help with manufacturing envelopes to be used in the mailing and mailhouse data processing.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has asked federal authorities to intervene on behalf of Cuyahoga County voters. Kucinich sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Monday asking U.S. attorneys to “use all the investigative and Prosecutorial power” of their office to look at the state’s ban on unsolicited absentee ballots.
Ohio Secretary of State John Husted recently banned from sending unsolicited absentee ballot counties applications to voters. Cuyahoga County ballot Executive Ed Fitzgerald plans to continue the practice of sending every registered voter in absentee.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants the county’s congressional delegation to help stop Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted from banning the Board of Elections from processing mail-in absentee voter applications.
Husted said Friday he is considering prohibiting Cuyahoga County’s Board of Elections from processing applications from people who wish to vote by mail if FitzGerald’s administration goes forward with a plan to mail applications to all active registered voters in the county.
Fitzgerald says the secretary of state’s remarks raise issues about voters’ rights and voter suppression that merit a review by the U.S. Department of Justice. He said his office will forward a transcript of Husted’s remarks to members of the delegation so they can help raise the issue.
A fascinating battle is shaping up in Cuyahoga County, OH where County Executive Ed FitzGerald is preparing to ask the County Board to defy a recent directive by Secretary of State Jon Husted prohibiting county election offices from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters by having the County use non-election funds to do so.
The substantive issues in this dispute are important – especially given the growing number of voters in Ohio who cast their ballots outside of a traditional polling place – but just as interesting is the tug of war developing between Husted (a Republican) and FitzGerald (a Democrat) about ultimate control over election policy in Cuyahoga County, which is home to the city of Cleveland and its suburbs.
What’s at stake in the Cuyahoga dispute is nothing less than who will have ultimate control of local election policy in Ohio – and maybe elsewhere.
Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said he is considering banning the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections from processing applications from individuals who wish to vote by mail, if county government moves forward with a plan to mail unsolicited applications to all its active registered voters.
Today, county Executive Ed FitzGerald said his office is fighting back, and is looking at legal action if Husted makes good on his threat. Fitzgerald said information may be forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department. Speaking outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections building, FitzGerald accused Husted of threatening voters.
“That comment stepped way over the line,” FitzGerald said today. “The fact is, Jon Husted can’t order the Board of Elections to refuse to allow citizens to vote by mail. For him to suggest that he can creates a real risk of sowing confusion among Cuyahoga County residents about this election.”
Ohio: Cuyahoga County proposes to mail absentee ballots despite election official’s ban | cleveland.com
Cuyahoga County’s executive plans to continue sending absentee ballot applications to all voters, circumventing a ban the state’s top elections official had imposed on boards of election. County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced Thursday that his administration will pay about $330,000 for a mass mailing, if County Council approves the expense Monday. Seven council members, including Republican Mike Gallagher, have already signed on as sponsors.
“The vote-by-mail program which Cuyahoga and other counties across the state were running were working. It was good government,” said FitzGerald, a Democrat. “That’s a principle that is worth going out on a limb for.”
FitzGerald’s solution might be short-lived, though. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said he plans to look for a “legislative fix” that would prevent county governments from paying for the mailings in the future.
Ohio: Secretary of State bans county officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications | WJW
Ohio’s top elections chief is banning county officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications ahead of Election Day. The move by Secretary of State Jon Husted Monday comes after several county boards of elections recently had tied votes on whether to send out applications.
A spokesman for the Republican says he wanted to provide clear guidance to boards, and issued the directive to the state’s 88 counties in order to have uniformity. Boards in Ohio’s larger, urban counties — those that tend to vote more Democratic — have typically sent unsolicited absentee ballot applications to registered voters. Some also pay the return postage. Ohio’s new elections overhaul bans the practice, though the law faces a potential ballot repeal. It has not yet gone into effect.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said Monday that he would like to continue a successful vote-by-mail program — even after the state’s top elections official ordered boards of elections to stop the mass mailings.
FitzGerald said he is reviewing whether the county can pay for a mass-mailing of absentee voter applications that, until now, had been handled by the county’s board of elections. His comments came just as Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted sent a directive that prohibited the boards from sending the applications to all registered voters in a county — a practice Cuyahoga County has done since 2006.
A controversial state law goes into effect in about six weeks that also prevents county boards of elections from paying return postage on the applications and paying postage for the completed ballots. What FitzGerald and other proponents of the vote-by-mail plan are hoping for is that another agency can handle the mailings.