You Can Now Register On-Line in Ohio

Cleveland has a competitive Mayoral primary coming up in September and then there are some important local races this November with every City Councilmember forced to campaign.  This is the first election with on-line registration.  It is too late to register for the primary, but there is over one month to register for the November election. 

September 12, 2017 is primary election day in Cuyahoga County.

October 10, 2017 is the deadline to register to vote for the November election.

Here is the Ohio Secretary of State's office link to register on-line.

Here is the Ohio Organizing Collaborative Link to register online to vote in Ohio?

According to the Ohio Organizing Collaborative staff, "For the first time, Ohioans are able to register to vote and update their registration through the Secretary of State’s website. So whether you’ve sat the last few elections out, moved since you last registered, or never voted before, you can get registered or update your registration today.  The last few months have been… kinda scary. I don’t know what the future holds for Ohio and our country, but I do know that there are important elections coming up this year and in 2018 that will have a huge impact our communities. That’s why it’s so important that we all register and vote."

The November election is November 7, 2017 polls open from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m.  Remember that for homeless people "Vote by Mail" is the best option

It is so important for everyone to participate and to actually vote.  No matter how many barriers Ohio puts in your way, people died for everyone to have the right to cast a ballot.  Please do your civic duty and vote in both the primary and the General Election.

Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis

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Overview of NEOCH Get Out the Vote Activities

Ken Payton who oversees the Cleveland Street Chronicle normally, was in charge of the Get Out the Vote campaign.  He worked on the weekends and did everything possible to get people to vote.  We have to thank Pastor Freddie Thomas Sr. of Living Faith Pentecostal Church for letting us borrow the church van to take homeless to the polls.  Ken had to put up with some unruly folks who just wanted a ride to the polls, but for the most part there was gratitude.  We heard over and over that people said, "I wouldn't have voted if you had not given me a ride."  Ken drove people who it was their first vote ever, and a few who had not voted for eight years.  

  •  36 people driven on Election Day to their precinct to vote.  
  • 1,546 registered in the shelters between June to October 11, 2016.
  • 199 registered by Ken Payton at NEOCH.
  • Early voting rides given to 48 individuals.

We wish that we could have worked closer with Souls to the Polls, but it just never panned out since they were focused on the two weekends.   Ken went to every shelter and nearly many subsidized buildings locally.  We also need to recognize EDEN and Frontline Services who had their staff coordinate rides or walking over the polling place for their residents to vote.  We also saw Famicos Foundation driving their residents over to the polling place.  Ken did all that he could to get homeless people to vote and we owe him a big thanks. 

Brian Davis

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Last Week to Vote Early

Non-Profit Vote has worked with NEOCH over the last few election cycles to help us alert voters in Ohio of the importance of voting.  We have worked with Cleveland Votes and COHHIO this year to register and get people to vote.  Early voting is the best for homeless people and those who move frequently because the staff at the Board of Elections are professional and know all the rules.  You also do not need ID to vote early.  There are rides available and one weekend left for early voting. 

State’s Appeal on Voting Lawsuit

In June, NEOCH won our lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Husted over new laws on provisional and absentee ballots passed in 2014. S.B. 216 and 205: (1) added address and birthdate fields to the affirmation forms that provisional voters must complete and identification envelopes that absentee voters must complete; (2) reduced the post-election time that provisional and absentee voters have to show proper identification from ten to seven days; and (3) prohibited poll workers from filling out affirmation forms and identification envelopes. Furthermore, both S.B. 216 and 205 impose “perfect form” requirements, compelling boards to reject absentee and provisional ballots if there is any error or omission in the five fields of required information on the ID envelope or affirmation form, or if the information does not match the voter’s database record in the statewide voter registration database. District Judge Algenon agreed with NEOCH that these laws were in violation of the 14th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as they discriminate against lower-income and homeless voters and particularly have adverse effects on African American voters. Now, the State of Ohio is appealing this decision. They have several arguments in favor of these laws that they will bring ito the court in writing.

The State submitted an argument in the appeal that these new provisional and absentee ballot laws sought to increase, rather than decrease, the number of counted ballots. They argue that a voter’s identity can be confirmed better with five identification fields rather than three, and stress that the new requirements of address and birthdate fields improve uniformity across the state. What they fail to explain at all is how a mistake in one or two of these five fields prevents a state from identifying a voter, or how taking away the right to vote for those who make mistakes in any of the five required fields improves uniformity in voting or increases counted ballots. They also make no arguments in response to the non-uniform applications of these laws. The State will also argue that the new laws have not decreased the acceptance rate of provisional and absentee ballots in recent years, and thus these laws are not causing harm. They cite the fact that the acceptance rate of provisional and absentee ballots was higher in the 2014 midterm elections than 2010 to try to argue that these laws have actually improved acceptance rates. The only problem with this statistic is that there this could be that fewer people could have had their ballots rejected on the basis of being late or not being registered in recent years when compared to 2010. In 2010, voters could not legally have their ballot rejected for technical errors and typos, so this reason for rejection was a new addition to the statistic of rejection in 2014-2015. The State will also insist that those who had their ballot rejected due to technical errors or typos were only a small percentage of those with rejected ballots, and so somehow this means that these laws are not harmful. This argument is interesting as NEOCH is arguing that the practice itself, and not how often it occurs, is unconstitutional. It is also an important part of NEOCH’s argument that these laws disproportionately affect African American and homeless voters. The State will argue that the District Court Judge made a mistake in focusing on homeless voters, and that the law is in fact neutral in its application to all voters. They claim that neutrality comes from the fact that all voters can choose by which method they vote, ignoring the plain fact that homeless and African American voters are statistically more likely to vote with provisional and absentee ballots.

In all of the State’s arguments, it is difficult to see any sort of justification for the actual act of throwing away ballots with typos and technical errors. They manage to argue about several other aspects of the laws and their own intent in writing them, without addressing that one crucial issue. We are hopeful that we will win the appeal on Friday and that Ohio voters can hold onto their right to vote in November without fear of their provisional or absentee ballots being thrown away. Ohio voters should not be restricted when voting by tests of their ability to perfectly complete voting forms. 

by Megan Shanklin

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PS The purge lawsuit is on appeal on Wednesday August 3 at the Federal Court in Cincinnati.

Updates to Homeless Voting Section of Website

In preparation for the important upcoming November 2016 election, we’ve updated the Homeless Voting section of our website! Click here or on the “Vote” Button on our many of the pages on the website and you’ll see an updated menu with current information for the 2016 election.

We have an overview of the pertinent voting information, NEOCH’s voting plan for 2016, FAQ about homeless voting, a voting checklist, and a flyer on the importance of voting. There are also links to external sites with relevant information. On the Voting Blog, I’ve added posts about recent changes in Ohio voting laws. These include NEOCH’s victory in its lawsuit against Secretary of State Husted, the restoration of Golden Week, Gov. Kasich’s veto of a potential restrictive voting law, and the recent purge of voter registration records.  

by Megan Shanklin

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Homeless People Have a Right To Vote Trainings

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is beginning our 2016 campaign to include homeless people in voter registration and get out the vote campaigns.   We have a staff person, Ken Payton, who is assigned to work on voting activities.  He can pick up your completed registrations and get them over to the Board of Elections in a timely manner.  He will be coordinating rides to the polling place in October and November and can bring your agency blank registration forms if you need.    We are hoping that each agency can assign one person to work on voting activities since every homeless person needs to update the Board of Elections on their residency for voting purposes.   In 2016, we are offering to come to your staff meetings to talk about homeless participation in voting if you want.  

Brian Davis

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Another Day; Another Lawsuit in Ohio Over Voting

Here are a few links to other stories in the media about this story

All of these raise the issue in Ohio of "Why is Husted sued so many times over voting and ballot issues?"  Why does Ohio rely so heavily on the federal courts to oversee the simple process of voting, and finally when is the Justice Department going to intervene to take over supervision of statewide elections in Ohio? How much of all these rules are a racist response to the mobilization of voters that took place in 2008 and 2012 in Ohio? 

Nationally, it raises the question of "Why is voting so complicated and now being used as a tool to exclude people from participating in our democracy?"  Why would we not move toward universal registration and not purge people from the voter lists for deciding not to vote?   Why would we focus on areas where there are proven fraud instead of making rules that exclude more people compared to the number of cases of actual fraud in voting?  The Secretary of State in his State Report of 2014, identified 17 cases that were suspicious out of the millions of votes cast in Ohio.  This is the justification for voter ID, purging voters and throwing away legitimate ballots with minor technical errors.  Here is a copy of the press release on this latest lawsuit.

“Voter rolls with deceased voters and people who've moved out-of-state have long contributed to the problems of voter fraud, long lines and discarded ballots," Husted said. “In 2011, there were several Ohio counties with more registered voters than eligible voters."

Notice that the Secretary of State did not identify any deceased voters who actually voted or even that there was actual fraud cases in Ohio.  All of these laws are solutions in search of problems.  How does purging a person's registration not result in even more discarded ballots?  These people will show up in November thinking that they are registered and then cast a provisional ballot because their name will not appear.  Then the local board will be forced to throw their ballot in the garbage because they were not registered.   This is all doublespeak that George Orwell warned us about. 

So what that there are more registered voters than eligible voters.  Are these counties running out of computer storage space?   What does it matter?  These people are not voting twice so who cares?  When only 20-40% of the population shows up to vote, maybe that is what Husted should work on getting more than a minority of the population actually voting.   Maybe he should spend his time supervising the local Boards of Elections so there are not 88 different strategies for counting provisional ballots.  How about adding early voting sites to reduce lines or adding weekend hours?  Why can't we register and vote 35 days before the election?  Maybe he should work on getting universal access to free identification for the hundreds of thousands who have financial or paperwork barriers to getting their birth certificate.  Maybe, he could focus on making the voting process enjoyable and easy and not some partisan battle with untrained election day "volunteers" put in the middle. 

It is horrible that we have these wars going on over the simple process of casting a ballot and participating in democracy.  This should not be so difficult and NEOCH should not have to keep going to court to make sure that people who move frequently can participate. 

Brian Davis

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Senator Brown Asks for DOJ Help on Voting

Ohio citizens have struggled to vote since 2005 when the ID requirements were added.  We fundamentally changed the role of the Secretary of State in Ohio from a position of figuring out ways to encourage voting to a place of restricting access.  We got "challengers" stationed at the precincts by the political parties to step forward and question the validity of voters.  We confused the role of the workers at the polling places from helpers to enforcers.  They were trained to be suspicious of all those who come in the door and ask them to prove who they were.  Workers got into the level of detail to try to figure out why an address on an identification does not match the address in the polling book. 

We did get the ability to ask for an absentee ballot without a reason.  We also got extended time to vote by absentee ballot and the wonderful Golden Week.  These were two improvements in the voting rights of Ohioans.  While we were safeguarding in person voting, we were actually making it easier for cheaters to tampering with the voting process in Ohio.  It is very difficult to vote multiple times in person.  There is travel and memorizing information from all these different people throughout the city.  It is unlikely that those who want to cast bogus ballots would pretend to be voters by traveling around the city.  It is much more likely that a criminal would send in bogus absentee ballots which Ohio ironically made a lot easier since 2005. 

We have also have made the federal and state judges the de-facto overseer of elections in Ohio.   We have had so many challenges to the voting process in Ohio it is staggering.  The legislature never goes back to work with both sides to fix the problems.  They just keeping digging deeper holes.  The State and Secretary of State has been challenged by students, older folks, homeless people, naturalized citizens, churches, minority groups, and good government groups.  All this from changing the role of the Secretary of State's role to be gatekeeper instead of facilitator.  They no longer work to encourage voting and get as many people as possible to vote to a new role as keeping people from voting and helping "the right" people to cast a ballot. 

NEOCH has sued the State regularly since 2006 to preserve the right of homeless people to vote.  We have largely been successful and have had regular consent decrees with the State of Ohio.  We have lost a number of times, but we have had to spend hundreds of hours in court to assure that low income people do not face the humiliation of showing up to vote, being challenged, and having their vote not count. 

Senator Sherrod Brown has asked the US Justice Department to intervene to protect Ohio voters.  He has asked the DOJ to investigate as authorized by the Voting Rights Law.

"Ohio has a long history of election problems...While these changes have helped to increase turnout, in recent years there have been numerous attempts to limit access to the ballot."

We agree with everything in the letter and hope that the Justice Department takes up this investigation.  We have created a page on our website to keep this letter.  With the decision by the Justice Department to intervene on the criminalization in Boise Idaho, we are hopeful that the Loretta Lynch Justice Department will take a serious look at Ohio's efforts to restrict access to voting.  We will keep you informed about the outcome. 

Brian Davis

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Voting Lawsuit Extended

NEOCH and other groups representing low-income individuals and minority groups in Ohio have grown accustomed to filing lawsuits for discriminatory voting laws. Including the most recent update by the Ohio legislature which passed in February 2015 and took effect on June 1, 2015. The law disproportionately affects low-income people and minority voters. These people are much more likely to vote by absentee and provisional ballots. However, the new law removed protections to people who voted by absentee and provisional ballots. The new law does not allow voters to be notified when there is an issue with their absentee or provisional ballot. So, instead of these votes being counted, they are eventually thrown out when errors are not fixed. Yet, there is no way for voters to know there is even an error, unless they check themselves.

 This current lawsuit relates back to a lawsuit against a similar 2006 law, which was settled by a court decree in 2008, 2010 and finally in 2012. The court decree governs Ohio’s provisional ballots and voter-identification requirements until 2016. On August 7th, the court declared that the interested parties can file the updated lawsuit as a Second Supplemental Complaint to the original lawsuit against the 2006 law. Going forward, NEOCH, along with the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the Ohio Democratic Party, hope to prove to the court that Ohio’s new voting law is unconstitutional and creates an undue burden on low-income, homeless, and minority groups.

by Brian Davis

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Successful Voting Event at 2100 Lakeside Shelter

Rev. Tony Minor, Advocacy Director at LMM, was the Master of Ceremony for our successful National Voter Registration Day event.  We registered or changed the address of 17 individuals, and a few requested an absentee ballot.  We heard from State Representative Mike Foley and County Councilman Dale Miller who both worked to motivate the crowd to vote.  Natoya Walker Minor represented Mayor Frank Jackson at the event.  All brought the message that it is critical for everyone to participate in Democracy. 

Walker Minor talked about the judicial races in Cleveland and the County that don't receive a lot of attention, but have a profound impact on the life of residents.  She talked about how important the judicial branch of government is to the community and we select our judges through a vote in November.  Mike Foley talked about how every vote matters with his first election as an example.  Mike won by a handful of votes that took two months to conduct a recount of the votes.  He is thankful for every vote because of his close election for State Representative. 

Dale Miller talked about the importance of voting and the changes in the law that are making it harder to participate.  He talked about and answered questions about some of the ballot issues that we vote on in November.  The State leaders have made it difficult for low income people to vote, and everyone talked about how important it was to cast a ballot because of all the blood spilled to earn the right to vote for women and minorities in the United States.  We urged people to complete a voter registration card if they had changed residences since they last voted.  

September 23 was National Voter Registration Day and we celebrated at 2100 Lakeside Shelter. We had the four community leaders on hand to talk to homeless people and eight volunteers registering people to vote.  There are only two weeks left to register people to vote.  We are urging early voting for homeless people who often have issues with maintaining identification.  We are going to help homeless people get over to vote during Golden Week and then through the election.  We are appreciative of Board for opening additional hours and additional weekend days so that it is easier for homeless people who often work full time to vote. 

Thanks to all the volunteers and the speakers for making this a successful event.  We hope that we continue to have a good turnout of homeless people who vote. 

Brian Davis

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Homeless Voting for 2012

Homeless Voting

We had a really nice meeting with the homeless providers to talk about getting homeless people registered and ready to vote.  To that end, we have also updated our website with the above logo on many pages.  This will allow you to click on the logo to go to our voting section of our website.   We have updated the materials on that page to reflect the new rules and laws passed that restrict low income access to voting.  Most of the materials on the site are updated for 2014.  We also have a blog which list updated information and upcoming events to encourage voting.   We want to help the homeless social service providers to register and encourage voter participation.  Contact NEOCH if you need any help with homeless registration and voting. 

We have to thank the County Office of Homeless Services for requiring each provider receiving public money to put together a Voting Plan for their residents.  We are one of the only communities in the Country that prioritizes homeless voting as part of the shelters.  This is so helpful and forces all staff working with homeless people to think about voting activities.  We helped around 1,000 homeless people register and vote in the 2012 election.   

Brian Davis

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Judge Marbley Decision Posted on our Website

Back at the beginning of August, Federal Judge Alegenon Marbley decided in our favor to extend the agreement between NEOCH and the State of Ohio until 2016.   This will standardize how provisional ballots are counted and will assist homeless people to vote in the upcoming Presidential election in person on Election Day.  We posted the entire decision here.  It is good reading because Judge Marbley has some wonderful language defending his decision.  

"This Court hopes that Ohio's boards of election would continue to implement Ohio's voting laws with the same uniformity that they have since the entry of the Consent Decree.  Asis from the Consent Decree, however, 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."

This goes through a nice history of the case leading up to the need for this agreement.  It details the struggles by two previous Secretaries of State to implement this poorly written law from the lame duck session of 2005.  The decision does a really nice job thinking through possible challenges to the ruling to extend the agreement through 2016.  It was also nice to see that he had a nice grasp of all the facts of the case and how this decision played out on the streets of Ohio. 

"A citizen's right to vote, however, cannot be at the mercy of the shifting legal interpretations of a single state officer, no matter how well intentioned he or she is.  The Secretary of State changes frequently and while the current Secretary may continue to instruct boards of election to count the ballots of Social Security Number last 4 digit voters, there is no guarantee his successor will follow suit.   The Court also observes that, on more than one occasion, Secretary Husted has attempted to make eleventh hour changes to Ohio's voting system."

Check out the full decision on our website.

Brian Davis

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Judge Extends Voting ID Agreement Until 2016

The Columbus Dispatch had nice coverage here of our voting victory.  The Public Radio Statehouse news bureau did a report that aired on WKSU this morning about our victory.  We need to urge Secretary of State Husted to not appeal this decision, but instead focus on fixing these vague rules throughout the state so that a homeless person in Akron has the same right to vote as one in Athens.  We need to make the enforcement of the agreement to be the primary focus of the office so there is equal access to voting throughout the state.  We need to focus on counting as many legitimate provisional ballots as possible. 

While all this was going on the State legislature was working to limit access to voting in Ohio.  They want to end Golden Week so no one can vote and register at the same time.  They want to limit early voting to 17 days and not on the weekend.  Remember, 77% of the people we registered voted on that last weekend before the November election of 2012.  They want to tighten the rules on identification, and roll back any advancements made in court by various lawsuits.  This is another effort to correct a problem that does not exist.  It is an attempt to limit access to the ballot box for poor people such as homeless and low income tenants.  This will only make it more difficult for the elderly, students, poor people, and homeless people to cast a ballot in Ohio. 

NEOCH will certainly urge for non-partisan heads to prevail on this effort.  We will push to take politics out of voting and work to try to enfranchise everyone living in Ohio.  This effort does not make sense because most moderate voters know a poor person, an elderly aunt or a cousin going to college who is going to be hurt by these new rules.   These rules will alienate all but the hard core partisan.   It will annoy more people than it will convince one section of the state to vote for one particular party.  It is a strategy that will only lead to more lawsuits and more fighting for the rights of minority, poor and elderly.

Brian Davis

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We Won an Extension of our Voting Agreement

Federal District Court Judge Algenon Marbley released his decision this morning to extend our agreement with the State of Ohio through the next Presidential Election at the end of 2016.   We had asked for an agreement through 2024 (so three presidential elections) and we got one.   This only means we need to work for a clarification of the law in the next four years or seek additional time on the agreement if there is still a need based on the issues that come up in 2014 or 2016.  It is likely that the State of Ohio attorneys who advocated on behalf of Secretary of State Jon Husted that the agreement should end will appeal this decision.

The judge weighed the evidence submitted on both sides and found merit that the agreement should remain in place.  In a finding of fact, the court found that the current law is deficient in that it does not allow voting using the last four digits of the social security number.  The court decision says, "It is not clear how an election official distinguishes between a voter who has, but cannot provide an ID, and a voter who does not have ID."  The court also found that the problems facing people without identification in Cleveland would be the same problem faced by all homeless Ohioans.  My deposition was referenced showing that 20 to 30% of the homeless population do not have the proper identification to vote.  Finally, the court found that before the agreement the interpretation of Ohio law by County Boards of Elections "varied wildly."   Marbley's decision showed that in 2008 1,990 provisional ballots were rejected for lack of identification while in 2012 only 363 provisional ballots were rejected. 

Much of the 21 page decision is aimed at the US Appeals Court and why this decision should be upheld by that court.  There is a great deal on the why this decision falls within the parameters set in previous Appeals Court decisions on extending agreements.  Former Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner who negotiated an agreement during her tenure as Secretary of the State submitted a statement to the court declaring that there seemed to be "good cause" to extend the agreement.  No one could have imagined that the state legislature would not have passed new legislation to clarify these identifcation rules by 2013. 

We did not get all that we wanted, but this should withstand an appeal and will ensure that the next statewide and presidential election are fair to those low income people without identification.  At the end of the day, County Boards should count provisional ballots with similar uniform standards throughout the state.  If they do not there is some remedy with the court to resolve these issues and those who do not have their legitimate ballots counted will have a place to go to assert their right to vote.  Unfortunately, since the 2004 politicizing of the Office of Secretary of State, voters have not found much help from that office in protecting their right to vote. 

Brian Davis

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Do We Believe the State Will Not Disenfranchise Voters?

There was nice coverage of the hearing yesterday in federal court by Associated Press Reporter Ann Sanner in the Akron Beacon Journal and the Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Why, in the home city of the lead plaintiff, NEOCH, was there no coverage?  I do not know.   But anyway, it was an interesting court hearing down in Columbus.  Our lawyers were in Federal Court asking for an extension of the agreement we finalized with the State of Ohio in 2010.  We have signed an agreement with the State over voters use of Identification before every election since the law was passed in the lame duck session of 2005. 

The attorney for the State of Ohio had the nerve to argue that we could not present one person who was denied the right to vote.  This should be our position for why to keep the agreement not the State's position.  We have had an agreement every election since 2006, and if we had found people who were denied the right to vote this would have meant that the state was in contempt of court.  This would mean that they were violating our agreements.  Thankfully, this has not happened, and nor have we ever been asked to come up with a person who was denied the right to vote.  The State was basically arguing that they do not need court supervision anymore in allowing people without identification to vote.  Basically, "trust them to keep people without identification from being disenfranchised."

Our wonderful attorney, Subodh Chandra handled the argument for SEIU and NEOCH the two lead plaintiffs argued that we cannot go back to the "Wild, Wild, West days" when the court was not strictly supervising the election.  In discovery, we found that many of the jurisdictions were not following the state directive in accepting Social Security numbers for the purpose of provisional ballots or were requiring people to come back to prove their identity in conflict with the directive from the State. This presented a problem where voters in Delaware were living under different voting rules than those residents of Cuyahoga County.   The court had already issued a permanent injunction forcing the state to accept voters who were told to vote at the wrong precinct within a polling place with multiple precincts.  With all the lawsuits against the State of Ohio in 2012 (weekend voting, early voting hours, id, etc), it is a tough argument to make, "Trust us; we want everyone to vote."

There was a great deal of back and forth about the reason for an extension and does it meet the district court guidance for extending court supervised agreements.  NEOCH and the other plaintiffs thought that the State would have corrected all this vague language in the original 2005 by this point.  We never could have imagined that the State legislature would have allowed all these problems with the definition of a veteran's ID or active military or what is a utility to persist for 8 years.  The State's attorney, Richard Coglianese representing the Attorney General said in open court that the current Secretary of State was committed to keeping the directives defining identification in place even without the agreement.  This again seemed strange since that would argue for our side that there is no reason to extend the agreement since the State is pledging to keep the directives contained in the agreement in place. 

We have asked for an indefinite extension or at least until 2021.  We tried mediation and the state was unwilling to extend the agreement.  It is almost certain that the decision will go to the Appeals Court. There was a good back and forth in the Beacon Journal article over Husted's commitment to letting all voters cast a ballot. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the agreement.

 

Homeless Voting Press Release and Report

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless spent a great deal of time in 2012 assisting homeless people to vote. We worked on our identification lawsuit to assure that a homeless person who shows up to vote in person on Election Day without identification, they should have the opportunity to vote.  We also drove hundreds over to the Board of Elections early to vote.  State Rep Nickie Antonio and State Senator Nina Turner monitor Board of Elections on Saturday November 3, 2012 We registered thousands within the shelters between the shelter staff and NEOCH staff and volunteers.  We also physically took over 200 people to vote and registered over 300.  We are championing how many people of the 300 we registered actually voted (93%!!!!). 

We released the report on voting a month ago on our website and we have sent this press release around in an attempt to dispel the myths that homeless people do not care and do not vote.   We call attention to the remarkable number of our voters who voted on the weekend before the Election in November (77%).   We have sent the report around to County and City officials.  We have circulated it among the shelters.  We have met with Board of Elections officials to plan for the 2014 statewide election.   We are working on a procedure for educating people at the front door of the shelters and provide them the form to change their address when they leave the shelter.  

Bottom line is homeless people want to be a part of our democracy.  They realize that they need to participate because the decisions made in Columbus and Washington will have a dramatic effect on their housing, availability of jobs, or access to Medicaid.  We would love to have every shelter in the country spend some time securing access to voting.  It only makes sense that when a person loses their housing and shows up at a shelter they probably need to notify the Board of Elections that they will have to change their address.

Brian Davis

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National Homeless Group Selects New Director

The Board of Directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless, of which I am a member, announced this week the appointment of Jerry Jones as its new Executive Director. Jones follows the successful work of Neil Donovan, who stepped down from this role in May.

Board President John Parvensky announced the new hire:

"Homelessness in America is a national tragedy that has been tolerated for far too long. We can no longer stand quietly while budgets are cut and our political leaders try to manage the problem rather than solve it. We intend to escalate pressure to demand a response that is proportionate to this crisis, and we have hired an Executive Director with a strong background in grassroots mobilization to lead this effort. We are especially committed to making sure that the voices of those experiencing homelessness themselves and others living in extreme poverty are heard in this debate."

Jones has a twenty-five year background in community organizing, issue advocacy and national-level campaigns. He is a former aide to the late Mitch Snyder, a prominent advocate for the homeless during the 1980s. More recently, Jones worked with the Center for Community Change, where he has served as the Director of Special Initiatives. His roles there included founding the Center’s electoral program in 2004, helping to launch the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, and coordinating a national progressive coalition in response to last year’s Fiscal Cliff.   Jones has experience with community organizing and assisting fragile populations with voting.

For more information about the National Coalition for the Homeless, please visit our website: www.nationalhomeless.org. Look for more information from the new director in mid July.

Voting Press Release Issued by Secretary of State

The Ohio Secretary of State issued a press release about referrals of fraud to the Ohio Attorney.  This was a bizarre release about the lack of voter suppression in the last election, which was strange since we witnessed offensive billboards put up in the inner City of Cleveland.   The release claims that there was not an "epidemic," but there were some irregularities in the last election.  Out of 5.7 million voters, there were only 135 suspicious ballots which is the farthest away from an epidemic that you could ever get.  There was no discussion of the long lines that are a form of voter suppression.  There was no discussion of not allowing weekend voting another voter suppression activity.  There was just a chart with no real details about these cases. NEOCH will follow up with a Freedom of Information Act/Open Records request to find out about the referrals from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

We have written about this in more detail on our Homeless Voting blog here and you can link to the article in the Columbus Dispatch...

Brian Davis

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Voting Champions for Homeless People

One of the most important things that NEOCH did in 2012 was our work registering homeless people and encouraging tPhoto by Norman Wolfhose individuals to step up to the ballot box to vote.  We have to recognize our main partner in this effort is Cuyahoga County.  The County is one of the only in the country that measures every shelter on how they encourage their residents to vote.  Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services has always made this a priority, and we certainly thank her for making this a priority issue.  We co-hosted a training in April 2012 with all the providers to discuss the proper procedure for registering and then assuring that voters actually show up to vote. 

Our other partner and 2011 Advocate of the Year was Subodh Chandra who is our attorney against the State of Ohio over voting procedure.  He was in court for much of 2012 to protect our agreement with the state regarding the identification procedure for in person voting and how those ballots were going to be counted.  The State and the current Secretary of State put every obstacle in place to reduce participation by the lowest income residents of Ohio. 

NEOCH did a ton of work, and we have to recognize Larry Davis for taking the lead on this effort.  He drove the van to shelters and apartments to encourage registrations and he picked up 220 people to take them over to vote.  I went to the big shelters every Friday to pick up registrations.  NEOCH staff collected 324 registrations from shelters and low income housing complexes.  We had 93% of the people that we registered actually showed up to vote because we sent them a number of reminder postcards/letters.  We found that all but 2 of the 301 people who voted asked for an early ballot.  So most voted by mail or went to the Board of Elections and voted.  An amazing 77% voted on the Saturday, Sunday, or Monday before the Election.  We also transported another 37 on Election Day in November. 

The NEOCH Board selected State Senator Nina Turner as our Advocate of the Year for 2012 for all her work in protecting access to the Ballot Box.  She attended every rally.  She became the face of the Obama lawsuit to allow weekend voting and regularly spoke about that in the media.  With a huge number of homeless voters that weekend, this was very important to our Coalition.  Senator Turner sponsored legislation that would have helped our clients vote, but that was defeated.  She attended a Homeless Congress meeting and the 2011 Candlelight Vigil.  For all these reasons, we selected Nina Turner as our Social Justice Advocate of the Year for 2012.

For the first time, NEOCH recognized a couple of agencies that went out of their way to help homeless people vote.  Nearly every shelter and Permanent Supportive Housing participated in voting activities.  There were two holdouts, but I think we have addressed that.  We recognized the staff at North Point Transitional Shelter which is administered by Mental Health Services, and staff Jeff Bricker.  The shelter registered over 30 new people during the summer, and had 45% of their residents vote during the Presidential Election. Jeff was regularly talking about the importance of voting and rallying the residents to participate.

Shindana Frazier (pictured above accepting the award from Marcia Bufford) from the Salvation Army Railton House Transitional Shelter led the effort among her staff in helping homeless people participate in Democracy.   Ms. Frazier and the staff helped register over 32 people in the summer and then worked to assure that the vans came over to the shelter to transport her residents to the Board of Elections.  She was regularly talking to the guys about voting and reminding them that it is easiest to vote early for homeless people.  Shindana Frazier led the staff effort to get her residents involved in voting by making sure that their registration is up to date. For these reasons we named Jeff Bricker of North Point Transitional and Shindana Frazier of the Salvation Army Railton House as Voting Champions for Homeless People in 2012.  All were presented awards at the Annual Meeting of NEOCH last week. 

 Brian Davis

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