By Grace Gamble and Brian Davis
Editor’s Note: On July 22, 2012, the Plain Dealer featured an op-ed by Secretary of State Jon Husted and the lawyer who filed a lawsuit to allow every voter to cast an early ballot the weekend before the Presidential election in Ohio. The Plain Dealer also published two-thirds of a page of letters to the editor. Grace, our intern, summarized the articles and opinions for us here.
On July 13th, 2012, Secretary of State Jon Husted decided to restrict the times allowed for early voting in Cuyahoga County. Husted’s decision served as a tie-breaker for the party-line split decision at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Husted agreed with the Republican proposal to restrict the number of voting hours available in the March Primary Election for the upcoming November Election. This means that the majority of voters will not be able to vote at the Board of Elections during the last three days before Election Day.
In his article in The Plain Dealer, Husted defends his decision, stating, “it will be easy and convenient to participate in the presidential election, and voters have a number of options.” He made the decision to reduce the number of extended hours in order to ensure that voters from all counties have the same rules and restrictions. Husted also explains that every registered voter in Ohio will have the opportunity to vote via mail. He suggests that this ability will reduce the number of voters who cast their vote in-person during extended hours.
Robert J. Renner fully supports Husted’s efforts in his letter to The Plain Dealer. A registered voter for more than 50 years, Renner has been able to vote every year and finds the process extremely accessible. “Extended voting hours-along with all the time, expense and energy wasted in this debate-are a distraction to our elected officials, who should be addressing more important issues,” says Renner. Barbara Dobay doubted that there will be lines in Cuyahoga County to vote on Election Day. In a surprisingly racist letter, Ms. Dobay suggested passing out free food to encourage early voting for "inner city voters." She seems to suggest that voters from inner city polling places should be familiar with standing in line at Christmas and the Horeshoe Casino adn waiting for anything free.
David Arrendondo of Lorain County who had previously testified before the federal hearing in Cleveland on voting, supported the Secretary of State's position. He indicated that "voters in no other country would have." This despite his testimony that indicated that Mexicans vote on Sunday as one day national election day. He decried that there was not a uniform voting procedure in all of Ohio. He claimed that a huge expansion in the opportunity took place in 2006 with no-fault early voting, and any further expansion is not necessary.
Conversely, Robert F. Bauer, a lawyer for the Obama Re-Election campaign, discusses reasons for the lawsuit against Husted’s decision brought to federal district court by Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party. Bauer explains that early voting helped solved the issue of long waiting lines for voters that “sometimes lead…to waits as long as six or seven hours.” Bauer also points out that in 2010 more than 90,000 votes were cast within the last three days before Election Day. Moreover, Bauer indicates the neglect of the General Assembly to acknowledged a referendum supported by “hundreds of thousands of Ohioans” to change the restrictions declared by legislation on early voting and other voting rights. Bauer also argues that the change in early voting goes against the right for equal protection under the law because only a limited number of individuals can vote during the last three days before the election.
Many individuals agree with Bauer. Norman Robbins argues that the early voting periods that have been eliminated were used by approximately 14,000 Cuyahoga voters in October and November of 2008. He also specifies that the majority of these voters were African American. NEOCH Community Organizer questioned Husted's premise that having large counties with huge populations having the same hours as small counties could be considered "balanced access."
These comments concern the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. By limiting the extended hours, the voice of the community which we serve may not be properly heard in the election. Voting is already extremely difficult for the homeless with the requirement of IDs and the difficulty of transportation to a voting facility. This limitation of extended hours makes the process to vote even more difficult for the homeless.
Adele Eisner summarizes these concerns in her letter to The Plain Dealer, “Cleveland-with one of highest poverty and foreclosure rates in the country, and one of the highest percentages in Ohio of traditionally disadvantaged minorities, regularly leading to frequent moving and insecure mailboxes in low cost housing, lack of transportation to the post office or the polls, and hourly workers trying to hang on to jobs, unable or afraid to take off to vote during business hours on or Election Day-is not provided sufficient access to countable ballots with a suddenly stripped-down, only -mail-in or weekday solution.”
One writer, Farhad Sethna, claimed all these restrictions on voting (purges, identification, and limiting hours) was un-American. He wants a unified opposition to these "insidious threat(s) to the fabric of democracy."