As everyone knows, Presidential elections can swing on the outcome in Ohio. Voters – and votes – in the Buckeye State are courted, coveted, and counted with care. In recent days, an alarming episode has been on unfolding in Hamilton County, where I serve as a Cincinnati City Councilman. Cloaked in the guise of an administrative relocation is a Republican move aimed at voter suppression. It started innocuously enough when the Hamilton County Coroner requested a bigger space for the County’s crime lab. A large hospital network offered one of its former facilities to the County for a dollar. In addition to relocating the crime lab to the new site, it was also proposed to move the Board of Elections – and, with it, the site of early voting. Sound routine and innocent? Guess again. The proposed relocation would place in-person early voting at a site far removed from downtown with severely less access by public transportation.
Whereas the current downtown location of early voting has greater bus connectivity than any site in the entire County, for the vast majority of riders the new location would require any combination of long commutes, bus transfers, hour-long waits to catch the next bus, and half-mile walks from where the bus line ends.
So say, for example, that you are poor, 75 years old, and looking after your grandchildren on Election Day. A whole lot of difficulties would be unnecessarily put between you and the ballot box for early voting. Clearly, voting by mail is available, but many voters do not trust or are not comfortable with that option. Isn’t choice a healthy thing?
While none of these obstacles are insurmountable, on the heels of last week’s recommendations from the President’s bi-partisan commission on voting, shouldn’t we as a country aspire to make voting easy and accessible for all – rather than taking deliberate steps to make it harder?