In a clash foreshadowing next year’s presidential election, Democrats in the Ohio House and voter activists now want big changes in how voter registration rolls are purged in the state. Experts consider registration the No. 1 factor in determining participation, and a bill unveiled last week by state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Kent Democrat, seeks to stop state officials from removing from the rolls voters who move within the state or who have been inactive. Her bill still would allow purging voters who move out of state and would leave intact the removal process for those who die or request to be removed.
Residents would be registered to vote automatically when seeking driver’s licenses or interacting with other state agencies, under legislation planned in the Ohio House and Senate. The bills also would allow online voter registration and automatically register graduating high school students. The proposed law changes will be offered by Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Sen. Kenny Yuko (D-Cleveland), who said in released statements April 24 that the legislation would add more than a million Ohioans to the state’s voter rolls. “It’s 2015 and with all the technology we have at our disposal, there is no good reason not to modernize our voter registration system,” Clyde said. “We can easily make a list of all eligible voters in our state.
Ohio: Kasich vetoes transportation budget language that critics said would deter voting | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday vetoed some provisions tucked into the transportation budget bill that critics had predicted would deter out-of-state college students from voting in Ohio. But the governor let stand a 30-day time limit by which anyone who declares Ohio residency must re-register their cars and get a new driver’s license. A provision that listed registering to vote among several acts of declaring residency in the state had triggered criticism. Under the vetoed language, failure to re-register an out-of-state car and get a new driver’s license would have resulted in loss of all driving privileges in Ohio and open the driver to a minor misdemeanor charge and a fine.
Ohio: Legislature Advances Controversial Bill That Could Deter Students From Voting | Huffington Post
Ohio’s Republican-controlled Senate passed a transportation budget Wednesday containing a controversial provision that critics say could dissuade college students from voting. The amendment to the budget, which was added at the last minute by a Senate committee, would require out-of-state students who register to vote from their campus address to register their cars in Ohio within 30 days and obtain state driver’s licenses. Completing both of those steps would cost over $75. If the more than 116,000 out-of-state students who attend Ohio’s public and private colleges and universities fail to do so, their out-of-state licenses would become invalid and they could face misdemeanor charges. Current law has allowed new Ohioans to claim residency and vote while keeping their out-of-state licenses and registrations because the state hasn’t specified a deadline for obtaining documentation.
Ohio: Voter suppression likely result of auto registration provision in transportation budget, legislator says | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A Democratic state representative and advocate for voting rights says a last-minute addition to the state transportation budget would effectively suppress voting by students at Ohio’s colleges and universities. But a spokesman for Senate Republicans, who inserted the provision into the budget bill, defended it as merely regulating vehicle registration laws. The provision would require people who come into Ohio and register to vote to re-register their vehicles with Ohio after 30 days. If they fail to register the car with Ohio, then their driving privileges under their out-of-state license for any vehicle would be suspended and they would have to obtain an Ohio license to drive.
Ohio: Redistricting reform for Ohio congressional maps proposed by House Democrats | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A pair of House Democrats announced Thursday a plan to change how Ohio draws its congressional districts, but a similar plan lacked support last year in the Republican-led legislature. The proposal, introduced by Reps. Kathleen Clyde of Kent and Mike Curtin of Marble Cliff, resembles one that the Republican-led General Assembly approved last year for drawing Statehouse districts. That plan goes before voters in November. … Clyde and Curtin’s plan has no Republican co-sponsors. Currently, congressional lines are drawn every 10 years by a committee of lawmakers and approved by the General Assembly. The setup allows the party in power — Republicans in 2011 — to draw lines and approve maps without minority-party input. Republicans hold 12 of Ohio’s 16 congressional seats yet only won 55 percent of the votes in recent congressional elections statewide.
A Democratic lawmaker and frequent critic of GOP-backed election law changes wants the state’s chief elections official to offer online voter registration. Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, sent a letter to Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted outlining the reasons she believes the change can be implemented without legislative approval. “Since online voter registration is already permitted by Ohio law, there is no reason to wait to make it available to all Ohioans,” Clyde wrote. “Ohio should be a leader on this, especially since our online registration system is already built and ready to use.”
Outside the Statehouse, Ohio’s election system is designed to run as a bipartisan machine in which the two parties watch over the process, and each other, to ensure that no one gains an unfair advantage. Inside the Statehouse is very different. “Elections are the only game in town where the players get to make their own rules,” said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials. Few issues have led to more-heated partisan rhetoric than election-law changes. Nearly every significant proposal is greeted with cries of voter suppression, disenfranchisement and racism from Democrats whose only real chance of stopping the bills are ballot referendums or lawsuits. “Unfortunately, the GOP agenda on changing election laws is not to solve the problems … and to create burdens on voters,” said Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent. “We’re all for common-sense solutions, but that’s not what we’re seeing.” This year, bills altering early voting, provisional balloting, absentee applications and minor-party recognition have ignited fights.
Ohio would cross-reference voter addresses with other state databases to try to clean up discrepancies under a voting bill that’s likely to pass the General Assembly on Wednesday. The legislation is part of a collection of Republican-sponsored bills that Democrats and civil rights activists say are slowly chipping away at voting rights in Ohio, the quintessential swing state. Most of the other bills won’t get a vote until next year, and many may not get a vote at all. Under the bill up for a vote on Wednesday, the secretary of state’s office would be able to try to update the voter rolls using information in databases associated with agencies such as the license bureau, the criminal justice system or offices that manager welfare and food stamp benefits. If the review were to identify a discrepancy, the secretary of state would notify local boards of elections so they could contact a person to try to update the record.
Proposals to require voters to show a photo ID before they can cast their ballots generally prompt protests of voter suppression from opponents, but a pair of Democrats have raised another reason for opposition: the cost to the state. One study found that implementing a photo ID law for voting could cost the state an average of $7 million a year, said Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent. Another study she cited set the price even higher — as much as $43 million over four years. Clyde and Rep. Mike Curtain of suburban Columbus conducted what they described as a preemptive strike on the issue Thursday, laying out their opposition to requiring voters show a form of photo identification. Ohio law requires that voters produce some form of identification when they go to the polls, but it does not require that ID have a photo of the voter. A utility bill addressed to the voter at the address at which they are registered, for example, currently suffices.
Republican State Rep. John Becker says voter fraud is a problem in Ohio. “You know the issue is there has been some documented issues of fraud going on,” Becker said. “There’s a perception that having voter ID would go a long way to eliminate some of the current fraud that we know of, and what might be more concerning is the fraud that we don’t know of, you know what’s slipping through the cracks.” Becker’s photo ID bill, which was introduced earlier this year, would require Ohio voters to show a valid driver’s license or state-issued identification card before casting a ballot. He says his bill makes sure low-income Ohioans who do not have those types of identification could get them free of charge. “It does provide for a free photo ID for anybody who can’t afford it and they are at or below the federal poverty level,” Becker said. Becker’s plan has the support of Chris Long, the president of the Ohio Christian Alliance. And Long said recent polling shows it has the support of most Ohioans too.
None? None! NONE!? A new report released yesterday by two Statehouse Democrats suggests there was all sorts of voter “suppression” in Ohio in 2012, an obvious contrast with a report from May 23 released by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted. That one said there wasn’t any. “Zero? That should’ve triggered a bell, and it did for us too. Zero? Something is wrong with that,” said state Sen. Nina Turner, one of the Democrats behind yesterday’s report. Turner will likely challenge Husted for his office in 2014. The report released by Turner and Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent cites tens of thousands of instances of voter “suppression,” counting all 34,299 provisional ballots rejected, all 13,190 absentee ballots rejected, 2,188 complaints from Ohio Democratic volunteer attorneys on Election Day, and the 122 votes rejected in the Ohio House 98th District race won narrowly by a Republican.
The new Ohio state budget has some interesting components, but most important for college students is the effect it could have on both tuition rates and voting rights. Republican Gov. John Kasich released his budget on Feb. 12, and legislators have been debating it since. A proposed amendment would require public universities that issue students a letter or utility bill for voter ID purposes to grant those students in-state tuition. Critics charge it would prompt Ohio’s universities to stop issuing the documents to prevent the loss of the tuition revenue. “This is another attack on Ohio voters,” State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) told The Plain Dealer. “This provision will make it very difficult for Ohio’s universities to help students vote. I think it’s outrageous. The problem, if we have one, is that not enough students are voting.” Proponents of the bill say it’s about getting students better tuition rates, rather than suppressing their voting rights.
A bill guaranteeing access for the disabled at polling places has been delivered to the governor’s desk for signing. The legislation requires all voting locations to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and exempts disabled persons from time limits at voting machines. In addition, disabled voters are guaranteed assistance in casting their ballots, among other provisions. The bipartisan measure passed with nearly unanimous support in the Ohio House and Senate. Sen. Shirley Smith, a Cleveland Democrat, jointly sponsored Senate Bill 10 with Republican Sen. Bill Coley of Liberty Township. Lawmakers have touted the legislation as an example of welcome cooperation between political parties.
With a presidential election behind them, Ohio lawmakers passed several bills Wednesday to make changes to the battleground state’s election laws. One measure was more contentious than the other: It would restrict the time groups have to collect the extra signatures needed to make sure their ballot questions get before voters. Under the proposal, groups couldn’t gather additional signatures until the secretary of state notifies them whether their initial petitions have fallen short. Current law already allows groups 10 days to file any added signatures once they get notification from the state’s elections chief. But campaigns typically continue to collect signatures after they submit their initial petitions to maximize their time to get additional names. That time has varied, depending on how long it takes election officials to certify that the initial signatures are from valid Ohio voters.
Ohio State Reps. Debbie Phillips, D- Albany, and Kathleen Clyde, D- Kent, are working to expose the state’s “broken” provisional ballot process, the two stated in a news release on Wednesday. They said they believe the state’s high number of rejected provisional ballots could be affecting two Ohio House of Representatives races, which are now heading to a recount. According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office website, “A provisional ballot is used to record a vote if a voter’s eligibility is in question and the voter would otherwise not be permitted to vote at his or her polling place.” Such scenarios for this include a recent change in address, not providing identification at the polls, or your signature not matching the one on your voter registration.
With two Ohio House races hanging in the balance, Democratic lawmakers threatened a lawsuit today over provisional ballots they contend are improperly being thrown out at the direction of GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted. “We urge Secretary Husted to work with us and take immediate action to avoid costly litigation and to rightfully count the votes of all Ohioans,” said Rep.Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent. “The stakes are very high with this provisional ballot crisis, and Ohioans’ rights are in the balance. Let’s work together, fix these problems, and count the votes.” The answer from Matt McClellan, spokesman for Husted: “We disagree with the representative from the 68th district (Clyde) as this is simply another attempt to create controversy where none exists. We are confident in our reading of the law, which has been affirmed by the 6th (U.S.) Circuit Court of Appeals. We are required to follow the law and uphold the integrity of the process.”
Ohio: Elections chief Jon Husted restricts methods to notify voters of absentee ballot errors | cleveland.com
For the presidential election, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has placed new restrictions on how local boards of elections can notify voters if their absentee ballot contains an error. Husted, a Republican, issued a directive Oct. 4 that limits the method of communication to first-class mail when a voter’s absentee ballot identification envelope contains errors, such as a missing name or signature, or if the information on the envelope does not match voter registration records. Election officials cannot notify voters by email or phone, even though voters may provide that information when applying for an absentee ballot, the directive said. Husted’s office says the directive was issued to ensure uniformity across the state. But Democrats say the directive is another example of Husted making it more difficult to vote. Earlier this week, Husted appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court an appellate court decision that allows in-person early voting the weekend before the Nov. 6 election.
County boards of election must stop early in-person voting as of 6 p.m. Friday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has advised, prompting Democrats to cry foul. The Rev. Jesse Jackson used a rally Wednesday at the University of Toledo to urge students and others to “occupy” the downtown voter-registration center “all day and night” this weekend. This occurs as a number of counties are reporting higher-than-usual absentee mail-in and early in-person voting for an off-year election, perhaps driven by interest in high-profile ballot issues such as Issue 2, which affects collective bargaining.
The early voting issue was created by a voter referendum effort on a controversial overhaul of state election law, House Bill 194, that had a spillover effect on separate legislation, House Bill 224, containing some similar language. The referendum effort has placed House Bill 194 on hold indefinitely, but the latter law passed unanimously and took effect last week.
On Tuesday the Ohio Senate might vote on a bill to require voters to show a form of photo identification when they go to the polls. John McClelland, a spokesman for the state’s Republican Senate caucus, said it’s unclear whether the Senate will take action on the bill before its summer recess. The senators’ immediate focus is on the state’s two-year operating budget, which must be approved by Thursday.
A voter ID bill potentially has big implications since voters in Ohio may decide who becomes president. Since World War II, Ohio has gone with the winner of the presidential election every time but once. The state, which will have 18 electoral votes in next year’s election, was decisive in 2004 and 1976, helping give narrow victories to George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Ohio, a former elections official, argued that the voter ID bill ought to be rejected. “Over the last 50 years, we have broken down barriers to voting,” she said, “We have eliminated literacy tests and poll taxes. We have expanded early voting to accommodate voters that are working longer hours. We should continue to make voting accessible. This measure instead takes us backward.”
Legislation that would shorten the state’s early voting period and change requirements for casting provisional ballots passed the Ohio House May 18 following more than two hours of contentious debate. The final vote on House Bill 194 was a party-line 53-39, with Democrats opposing. The legislation next heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration. Rep.…