Ohio: House passes measure to void election-spending rule | Cincinnati Enquirer

Companies, nonprofits and unions wouldn’t have to disclose when they pay for an election advertisement, and corporations with state contracts would be allowed to spend money on elections, under a provision that passed the Ohio House Wednesday. The provision would void a rule implemented by former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner that governs election spending by corporations, nonprofits and labor unions. The rule requires the groups to disclose when they spend money to advocate for or against the election of a candidate, both through a statement included in the ad and through a form filed with the secretary of state’s office. But Republicans’ main issue with the rule, a spokesman said, is its prohibition of election-related spending by corporations with state or federal government contracts within one year of their receiving money from the government. They also wanted to void the part of the rule that prohibits spending in elections by corporations with more than 20 percent ownership by non-U.S. citizens or corporations based outside the U.S.

Ohio: Provisional ballots, ID voting rules extended | The Columbus Dispatch

A federal judge extended a 2010 court decree that governs Ohio’s provisional ballots and voter identification requirements, which voter advocates say has kept elections from becoming the “Wild West.” The agreement ensures that election officials count votes cast provisionally when voters use the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley today. He extended the order until the end of 2016, after the next presidential election in the battleground state. Marbley said that without the decree, “there is nothing to prevent boards of election from returning to those haphazard and, in some cases, illegal practices, which previously resulted in the invalidation of validly cast ballots from registered voters.”

Ohio: Advocates ask to extend voter-ID order | The Columbus Dispatch

Voter advocates asked a federal judge yesterday to extend a court order that they say ensures that broad definitions of voter-identification requirements would remain in place in Ohio. Attorneys for the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Jon Husted, said he’s committed to the more-lenient voter-ID definitions, unless the legislature changes the law so the decree isn’t needed. At issue is whether an expiring 2010 court agreement that governs provisional ballots and forms of voter ID in Ohio should continue.

Ohio: Husted says election boards can’t notify absentee voters of errors | WLWT

Voter rights groups in Ohio took issue Tuesday with an order from the state’s elections chief that bans local boards of elections from calling or emailing voters in the presidential battleground state about errors or incomplete information on their absentee ballots.  According to the Oct. 4 directive, “notification may not be made via telephone, email, facsimile, or by any means other than in writing by first class mail.” Voters would then need to appear at their board during office hours to address any problems. Husted also has told boards to provide accommodations for the disabled.  The order is a change from how absentee voters were notified of errors in 2008. Former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, permitted boards to alert voters by phone, email or letter that there were problems with their ballots.

Editorials: Should partisans be in charge of our elections? | CBS News

Imagine that the umpire in a baseball game was affiliated with one of the teams on the field. Would you trust him to call the game fairly? You most likely would not. Yet when it comes to elections, Americans trust officials from the two political parties to oversee the process in a fair way. There are 36 states in which elections are overseen by an elected, partisan secretary of state or lieutenant governor, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State. In another three states – Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas – partisan secretaries of state appointed by the governor oversee elections. These officials vow to carry out their duties in an impartial manner. The Constitution of the National Association of Secretaries of State says that members commit to “practicing fair and unbiased election administration that recognizes each eligible citizen’s right to cast his or her vote, and for that vote to be counted with the highest regard to constitutional foundations.”

Ohio: Court Rules Husted is Still Bound by Consent Decree on Provisional Ballots Agreed to by Previous Secretary of State | Ballot Access News

On July 9, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted must continue to abide by a consent decree agreed to by his predecessor Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner. Husted is a Republican and Brunner is a Democrat. The consent decree provides that provisional ballots are valid when they are cast in the right building, but the wrong precinct, and if the provisional voter revealed the last four digits of the Social Security Number when voting provisionally, and if the error was made due to polling place official error. Apparently Ohio has many polling places in which multiple precincts vote in the same building. The case is Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless v Husted, 2:06-cv-896. It is not known if the Secretary of State will appeal.

Ohio: Ruling on provisional ballots issue expected by August | Dayton Daily News

A U.S. District Court judge plans to decide by early August on whether a consent decree requiring provisional ballots be counted regardless of poll worker errors should be invalidated or kept in place. “There is nothing more important than the franchise – the right to vote,” U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley told the attorneys on Wednesday. “This court is going to protect the franchise.” Two years ago, Marbley issued a consent decree that followed an agreement struck by the parties in the case Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless versus Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, over provisional ballots. The deal requires that provisional ballots be counted even if they were cast in the wrong precinct or the ballot envelope wasn’t properly filled out due to poll worker error. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted is arguing that the consent decree conflicts with Ohio law governing provisional ballots and with a more recent ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Ohio: Republicans want to disallow ballots with errors caused by poll workers | Slate Magazine

So much ink has been spilled on how vote suppression will affect the 2012 presidential election, one hesitates to write another word. Ari Berman has done terrific work uncovering the ways in which the new voting laws have aimed at suppressing the votes of elderly, minority, student, and other voters—particularly in swing states—who tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice has an indispensible primer on the 22 new laws and two executive actions that will severely restrict voting in 17 states in November. These laws, often modeled on draft legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a consortium of conservative state legislators, will have the effect of disenfranchising millions of voters, all in order to address a vote fraud “epidemic” that should be filed somewhere between the Loch Ness Monster and the Tooth Fairy in the annals of modern fairy tales. As Weiser notes, none of this is casual or accidental: “If you want to find another period in which this many new laws were passed restricting voting, you have to go back more than a century—to the post-Reconstruction era, when Southern states passed a host of Jim Crow voting laws and Northern states targeted immigrants and the poor.” Whether it’s onerous (and expensive) voter ID rules that will render as many as 10 percent of Americans ineligible to vote, proof of citizenship measures, restricting registration drives,cancellation of Sunday voting, or claims that voting should be a privilege as opposed to a right, efforts to discount and discredit the vote have grown bolder in recent years, despite vanishingly rare claims of actual vote fraud. The sole objective appears to be ensuring that fewer Americans vote in 2012 than voted in 2008. But as strange as the reasons to purge certain votes have been around the nation, things have grown even stranger in recent weeks in Ohio, where GOP lawmakers have gone after not only voters but the federal courts, in an effort to wiggle out of statewide voting rules.

Ohio: GOP, Democrats close to election-law deal | The Columbus Dispatch

A potential last-minute agreement between House Republicans and Democrats could end a bitter fight over the repeal of a GOP-crafted election-law overhaul. Just minutes before voting to repeal House Bill 194 — and as House Democrats bombed away on the GOP in floor speeches — House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, and Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, worked out a deal to suspend the vote. Republicans had planned to repeal House Bill 194 and end the November referendum effort. But Fair Elections Ohio, the coalition of Democrats and progressive groups that worked closely with President Barack Obama’s re-election team to challenge the law, resisted the repeal. The group argued that it would deny people the right to vote against the law and would have blocked early voting in the three days before Election Day. The group and other Democrats had promised to fight the GOP repeal effort in court. Republicans argued that the opposition simply was a political effort to keep the referendum to help drive up voter turnout.

Ohio: GOP leaders sue over provisional ballots | The Marietta Times

Ohio’s elections chief is violating the state constitution by requiring county election boards to follow a federal court decree instead of state law when it comes to counting provisional ballots, GOP lawmakers alleged in a lawsuit Monday. At issue are requirements for providing identification when a voter has to cast a provisional ballot, typically a ballot cast in the wrong precinct. A 2006 state law laid out the requirements for when such ballots are counted, starting with voters who have only the last four digits of a Social Security number as identification. In general, state law is more restrictive than the federal decree when it comes to prohibiting provisional ballots. For example, the law doesn’t allow provisional ballots for votes cast in the wrong precinct because of a poll worker’s mistake, whereas the decree would allow such votes to be counted.

Ohio: Ohio secretary of state certifies signatures to put elections law on next year’s ballot | cleveland.com

Voters will decide whether to approve another key piece of legislation passed by Republican lawmakers, this time an election reform bill that Democrats have called a “voter suppression” bill. A referendum on House Bill 194, a sweeping reform of election laws, will appear on the November 2012 ballot, Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office announced Friday.

Opponents of the bill, largely Democrats and voting rights activists, collected 307,358 valid signatures, according to the secretary of state’s office. Petitioners needed 231,150 signatures to put the law on the ballot.

The successful petition drive comes on the heels of Democrats’ victory in overturning Senate Bill 5, a controversial collective bargaining law. That law, supported by Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP legislative leaders, was overwhelmingly rejected in the November election.

Ohio: Ohio ballot in ’12 likely to include election law | Toledo Blade

Opponents of a new law limiting absentee voting and early voting and making numerous other changes to Ohio elections law filed an additional 166,481 signatures Tuesday to virtually guarantee that voters will serve as final judges on the measure next year.

Led largely by former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and fellow Democrats and with support from President Obama’s campaign, the latest petition filings are expected to be far more than the roughly 10,000 needed to patch a hole in the coalition’s first filing at the end of September.

Ohio: Husted: Political fights make running election more difficult | The Chillicothe Gazette

Partisan sparring by state lawmakers about proposed congressional district changes and moving the state’s 2012 primary from March to May is making it difficult to administer an effective election, Ohio’s secretary of state said Thursday.

“The political infighting that’s going on right now between the two parties is beginning to affect the effective administration of elections,” Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said during an interview with CentralOhio.com on Thursday. “This is a major concern to me.”

House legislators passed a bill Thursday to move the 2012 primary election from March to May, although it wouldn’t take effect immediately. The redistricting map cleared the Ohio House on Thursday by a 56-36 vote that included several “yes” votes from Democrats.

National: Republicans Make Drive to Tighten State Voting Rules Before 2012 Elections | Bloomberg

With Republicans taking control of most U.S. capitols this year and a presidential race looming, states have passed the most election-related laws since 2003 in a push to tighten voting rules. Forty-seven states have enacted 285 election-related laws this year, and 60 percent were in states with Republican governors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Democrats are pushing back by vetoing photo- identification laws in five states and trying to repeal other voting laws in Maine and Ohio, where President Barack Obama’s campaign is promoting the effort.

It’s the “battle before the battle” as both parties fight for what they think are the most advantageous and fairest rules, said Doug Chapin, director of an elections-administration program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“We’re at a level of activity that I don’t think I’ve ever seen,” Chapin said in a telephone interview. “You’ve got the combination of a fiercely divided nation, uncertainty about what the rules are and a belief that every single vote counts.”

Ohio: Fair Elections Ohio Turns in First 1000 Signatures for HB194 Referendum | ProgressOhio

Representatives of Fair Elections Ohio, a coalition of state legislators, voting rights advocates, labor unions, progressive organizations, and concerned citizens across the State of Ohio, today turned in the first 1,000 valid signatures for a HB194 referendum to the Ohio Attorney General.

“In just five days, concerned citizens from across the state have stepped up to bring HB194 directly to the voters so they can decide if their voting rights should be diminished or curtailed. Because of the nature of the rights at stake, thoughtful, serious volunteers who believe in keeping access to voting available to all eligible Ohioans have done a great job in the gathering the signatures that will allow this process to move forward,” said former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Fair Elections Ohio had dozens of volunteers across the state collect this first round of signatures from over a dozen counties.

Ohio: New election law spurs ballot repeal effort | Beaumont Enterprise

Parts of a new election law in Ohio are being targeted for a ballot repeal effort about two weeks after the governor of this traditionally presidential swing state signed the overhaul measure. A coalition of lawmakers, progressive groups and state’s ex-elections chief said Thursday that they have started collecting signatures in an effort to stop pieces of the law from taking effect Sept 30.

Gov. John Kasich, a first-term Republican, signed the law July 1. Among other changes, the sweeping measure shortens the state’s early voting period, bans in-person early voting on Sundays and prohibits boards of election from mailing absentee ballot requests to voters. Former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, said those provisions place barriers on voters and should be repealed.