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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Update on House Bill 41: Voting Changes

I went to Columbus to testify against the voting changes in House Bill 41.  The bill had a substitute which I was not prepared for, but my testimony focused on all the changes that need to be addressed with regard to voting in Ohio.  The new substitute bill would eliminate the two forms that a voter needs to fill out in order to vote early in person (Good news).  It requires the individual to be asked for identification for early voting (bad news).  If the person does not have the proper identification they will have to fill out the second piece of paper (more bad news) that allows them to vote with the last four digits of their social security number.

Our issue is that because the state has been sticklers with filling out the proper paperwork, every piece of paper or piece of information collected is more of a chance that the ballot will be thrown away.  Hell, they were throwing away provisional ballots because the person wrote their name in cursive instead of printing, so how do we know that this additional paperwork will result in the ballot being thrown away? The other question that came up was what is the point of this legislation?  Why do we even need it if there is such a minor fix?  There are major problems with the voting process in Ohio why don't they fix all those other problems?

We need voting legislation to do three things:

  1. Figure out how to get every legitimate citizens registered to vote.
  2. Figure out how to assure that everyone gets to vote either early or in person on Election Day without a lot of hassle or obstacles.
  3. Figure out how to get everyone who wants to vote but is forced to vote with a provisional ballot will have that vote count. 

Based on the hearing yesterday, the State Legislators have not read Governor Kacish's new book about working to heal the division in the United States.  The Republican members did not reach out to the Democrats to craft a bi-partisan piece of legislation.  They would not allow amendments without providing 24 hours notice and they ignored opposition testimony because it was not based on the substitute legislation.  It seemed to me that the Republican majority's opinion was that Democrats were stupid and all their supporters were stupid or dreamers and were dismissive of any comments. 

 Here is the note from Representative Kathleen Clyde:

Dear friends,

I wanted to follow up with you after last week’s alert about HB 41. Yesterday, the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee heard opponent testimony asking us not to change the ID requirement for in-person early voting. The committee approved the bill anyway without consideration of the testimony or discussion before the vote.

The amendment to the bill put back the ability of voters to use their SSN4 as ID if they don’t have the other forms of ID, but the unnecessary change will still inject confusion and burden voters.

 Bill Anthony, former Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections told us, “If it’s out there that you need to bring ID, then that’s all voters are going to hear.” Nick Youngblood from the Ohio Student Association (OSA) echoed that statement and said “There is no such thing as a voting restriction that will increase turnout.” Craig Anderson, also with OSA, told the committee that as a young African American voter, he did not think the ID change was straightforward to urban voters.

 Democrats on the committee voted No on the bill. I will remain opposed to the bill if it comes to the House floor.

It was good to see State Representative Martin Sweeney from Cleveland, but otherwise the Ohio Legislature was not listening to ideas for how to fix voting in Ohio.

Brian Davis

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Here is my testimony that I submitted to the original legislation

Here are my revised comments that I would have submitted to the substitute bill

Voting Training Coming Up

Cleveland Votes will be host a training on Thursday July 28, 2016. Registration and refreshments start at 8:30 a.m., followed by a training session from 9 a.m until 11:30 a.m. The event will be held at ADAMHS, 2012 West 25th Street, 6th Floor, Cleveland, Ohio 44113 (parking is located in rear; enter on W. 26th and Lorain Avenue or use metered parking around the building).  We signed up and hope that you will also.  Learn what your agency can do during the upcoming Presidential election. 

Brian Davis

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Voter Participation Center Creates Own Registration Form

I don't understand why this group out of Columbus and Washington would create their own form and send it to voters in Ohio?  They know that our Secretary of State has found reason after reason to kick out voters so why take the risk. We are engaged in two lawsuits with the Secretary of State including one for an improper purge of voters, so it is only natural for the Secretary to find a reason to kick out registrations.  None of the numbers match the Ohio form and they ask confusing questions like "ID number."  They ask a race question, which is not on the Ohio form.  Will each of the 88 counties accept this form or will this group have to file another lawsuit?  There was a citizen from Columbus who is trying to get her BOE to accept the form in Franklin County.  This just seems strange and asking for trouble.

We had nothing to do with this form or the group and would have said, "Don't try to do a national form. Do a form for each state."  They are just asking for the Secretary of State to reject these forms.

Brian Davis

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Reflections on the Voting Victory

VICTORY for NEOCH

Ohio voting laws enacted by Republicans in 2014 have been overturned pending an appeal.

When you go to register to vote or go to the polls, the last thing on your mind is that there may be deliberate, subtle voter suppression techniques at work to eliminate some of the ballots.  A Federal Judge agreed that is exactly what was happening in Ohio causing NEOCH and other plaintiffs (The Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless) to win a lawsuit that was putting illegitimate requirements on how absentee ballots were determined legitimate and counted.  The judge agreed that “technical errors”, obvious typos and honest mistakes were not reason to throw out ballots when it was still easy to determine the identity of the voter. 

The 2014 laws which were put into effect by a Republican controlled Ohio Congress required that ballots be thrown out if there were errors in them.  Simple errors like these I found in our research of the ballots were all thrown out by the Board of Elections at our NEOCH offices:

  • A person made a mistake on the first digit of the last four digits of their social and clearly wrote an 8 over top of it.  It was bold and dark, it was obvious it was an 8 but it was thrown out.  The only error was the person found and corrected their own error. 
  • Another person put the 4 numbers of their address in the wrong boxes and went back and corrected over top.  There was a Social Security # (SS), Date of Birth-- DOB, signature, and still their ballot was thrown out, again, this error was caught and corrected by the person and was still thrown out.
  • A person put their SS in the State of OH box and put an arrow pointing down to the SS# boxes where it should have been and it was thrown out.  It was clear what they meant, but again, the ballot was rejected by the Board of Elections.

Unfortunately many of these errors were made by Senior Citizens, many of whom were in their 70’s and 80’s and simply just wanted to vote. They walked away thinking that they had voted only to have their ballots rejected, discarded and uncounted.  

The overturning of these laws is a huge victory for the voters in our state.  Literally thousands of ballots have been thrown out since these laws were enacted in 2014.  Many of them removed legitimate votes from sincere people who simply made a mistake.  The BOE was able to determine the voter’s identity, but the ballot still was discarded.  So, if a person had trouble reading the ballot or misunderstood something or made a mistake, their right to vote was lost.  Voting should be a simple and easy process for everyone, especially the elderly, but has become a test of reading, writing and attention skills. 

We are very thankful that NEOCH, the Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless got together and fought the State of Ohio to assure that these unethical laws were abolished and that people in Ohio can rest easy knowing their right to vote is being protected. 

Immediately following this victory, the State of Ohio declared that they were going to appeal this decision.  Clearly, they think that a mistake on a ballot made by an elderly person, or by a person who has trouble reading is reason for that person’s vote should not count.  I believe every ballot where the voter can be identified needs to count.  It is essential to our democracy. 

by Denise Toth

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Homeless Voting Victory: State Will Appeal

We spent a ton of time at the end of last year and the beginning of 2016, working to protect people who took the time to vote to assure that their ballot was counted.  We found that thousands of Ohioans attempted to vote by mail or were forced to vote by Provisional ballot and because of a minor error in the envelope they returned their vote was thrown in the trash.  This included not counting ballots with readable cursive writing where it says "print name" or those older folks who accidentally mixed up a digit on the envelope.  Remember, for the most part on the absentee ballot envelope the critical information is printed by the Board of Elections on the envelope.  So, the boards were not confused over the person's identity.  They were just tripping people up for minor critical errors to exclude voters.  There was no legitimate reason for this hypercritical look at the envelopes.  Federal Court judge Algenon Marbley agreed with us and struck down this law.  With the restoration of Golden Week this is the second time in the last few weeks that a Husted supported change in the voting process was overturned by the courts. 

Here are a few media outlets which featured stories on this issue:

We held another training yesterday for social service providers and you can keep updated on all the information on homeless voting by clicking on the "Vote" button on our website. 

The Secretary of State almost immediately announced that he would appeal this decision.  As a participant in the trial, I have to say that the state's case was weak from the beginning.  They never explained:

  • Why there was a disparity in various counties in the enforcement of these rules?  Why were small counties more forgiving when compared to big counties? 
  • Why did the state need this law?  What problem were they trying to correct? I thought the core of the Republican agenda was getting rid of unnecessary regulations?
  • Why was there no opportunity to correct these issues instead of automatically disenfranchising the voter?
  • Why does this law disproportionately impact elderly and low income individuals?

 Our side explained the history of voter suppression activities in the state legislation.  There were concerns from the witnesses to overturn this law over racist billboards and highly offensive comments by Ohio political leaders about lower income minority voters.  We attempted to refute the state's case that this only impacted a smaller number of voters so it is not a big deal.  I raised the concern that the Secretary of State was championing the dozen of fraudulant voters (out of millions cast) in his Annual Report to voters while not mentioning the thousands of legitimate voters who lost their right to vote because they were not careful in reading, understanding and putting down their information.

We have to congratulate our attorney Subodh Chandra and the woman who did a ton of the work on the case locally, Sandhya Gupta.  Ms. Gupta gave up sleep for a month to answer all the State's questions and respond to all the depositions.  She did an amazing amount of work on this case and we are so glad that all her work paid off.  Ms. Gupta was so supportive and such a quiet yet powerful advocate for voter rights in Ohio.  Thanks to Caroline Gentry and Don McTigue for all their work making the case for counting every legitimate vote cast in the election. 

by 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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This is Why We Sued the State Over Voting

There are two article in the Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland Plain Dealer here about the voting issues in Ohio.  Why is the Homeless Coalition involved in this lawsuit?

We feel this is a continuation of our lawsuit from 2006 in which there was a settlement in 2010.  We had an agreement with the state that legitimate provisional ballots would be counted.  This new law undermines that issue.  As the Columbus area Board of Elections official admitted legitimate ballots were discarded.

“It was not any fault of our people,” Anthony said. “They were backed into a corner. They could not approve them. And I think that’s a shame. … I just think the law needs to change.” William Anthony of the Franklin County Board of Elections (Columbus Dispatch article).

The Cuyahoga County officials in depositions said that they try not to discard ballots.  Upon closer examination there were many legitimate ballots thrown away and the defense was that the voters have to "take responsibility" for completing the ballot correctly.  We looked through every discarded ballot in Cuyahoga County and it was amazing seeing these voters trying to navigate the paperwork and failing.  There were many elderly who had an issue understanding the form or who made simple errors.  There were guys in jail who did not understand that a jail cannot be used as a residence.  There were people who made simple errors but it was clear that you could determine their identity.  They made a clerical error and their ballot was tossed.  Board of Elections staff who made errors faced no such punishment, and the response was just "Oh, Well..."

The State has said that the single biggest reason for discarding ballots is those who are not registered so these others thrown out are not that big of a deal?  This is a horrible argument. There were elderly women in nursing homes who tried to participate in the voting process as they had done for 40 years and had their ballot tossed in many of the urban centers of Ohio.  The State does not consider this a big issue.  There were those with a fourth grade reading level who had trouble with the envelope for vote by mail or early voting and had their ballot dropped in the trash.  The State seems to feel that this is not a big issue.  Just because only one half of one percent of the encounters between white police officers and African Americans goes badly does not mean that it is not a problem. 

The other argument that the State made was that this was actually an improvement in the law because when a voter uses the new Provisional ballot forms it can change their registration so that in the future they will have updated their address with the Board.  This is also silly since in 2012 and before there were always blank registration cards available to change a person's address at the precincts or at the Board of Elections for early voting.  This was a solution looking for a problem to solve.  The state is saying that we had to disenfranchise thousands of voters in order to help a few with a problem that never existed.  

This is a literary test and a barrier for the disabled to vote.  The state says that disabled and illiterate can admit to a stranger that they have this issue with reading or have a disability and need help.  It was also interesting that the rural communities (Meigs, Wyandot) were more forgiving compared to the urban centers (Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lorain and Summit Counties).  The more rural communities said things like "we knew who they are and could see that they just made an error so we counted their vote."  And by the way these were Republicans, while the Democrats in urban communities said, "That was the law, and sorry they lost their vote, but we were only following the law and directives from the State."   The results of the law are racist and depress low income voter turnout.  

I was surprised that the State was even willing to defend this law.  There was very little oversight and all 88 counties seem to have different interpretations of the law.  We saw some reject as few as 2% of votes questioned while others rejected nearly 24% of those subject to further review.   Who would defend throwing away legitimate ballots that everyone agreed we could determine their eligibility?  There was no fraud or conspiracy in the voting process.  There was no need for this law.  If there was no call for this legislation and no problem to solve, we are left with this has to be voter suppression of a certain group of voters.  What is the demographics of voters living in urban centers of Akron, Cleveland and Lorain, and who do these voters traditionally vote for?  Then you look at which party voted for these laws, and you see an answer for why these laws were passed. 

State Representative Kathleen Clyde did a wonderful job of documenting the reasons behind these changes in the law and how the majority party in Ohio ignored all the warnings that good government groups were giving in opposition to these changes.  She detailed how Democrats opposed these changes and warned that legitimate voters would be disenfranchised.  Former State Senator Nina Turner also testified about the impact of this law on the local community and the level of racism that existed in our communities during the 2012 election.  Thanks to both of these elected leaders for taking a stand against injustice especially when the issue is so fundamental to our democracy as our right to vote. 

Brian Davis

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Why Your Ballot May Not Count

When a voter goes to the polls to vote and there are questions about their eligibility, like their name doesn’t exactly match what’s on their registration, or there is a problem with their ID or their name does not appear on the registration list, or they have moved and not updated their address on file at the Board of Elections, that person has the right to cast a provisional ballot after which their eligibility is determined by the County staff.  Provisional ballots will be included in the final results of the election if the local election board determines that the individual was eligible to vote and they voted in the proper precinct.  If the board of elections determines that individual was not entitled to vote, the provisional ballot is rejected and does not count in the final election results. 

We at NEOCH believe every individual, homeless or not should be encouraged to register and then get out and vote.  Over the years we have fought for that very right and to make the process as easy and seamless as possible.   Since the founding of the Coalition voting has been critical to our mission.  In fact, we worked with the County to making voter registration a part of the intake process that shelters are measured on. 

To be eligible to vote in an election you should be a citizen of the US who is above 18 years of age and not currently incarcerated on a felony.  In 2014, the law was changed adding additional items to both the provisional and absentee ballots.  They also mandated that ballots be tossed for minor errors.  Making a typo on your form or leaving off one piece of information even if there is enough information to determine who you are results in your ballot being tossed.  If you are an elderly person or have literacy issues or have a hard time with a confusing form, should not be a reason to have your vote rejected.  On the provisional ballot form there is a heading to the left of the page that says Former address, but on the right side of the form across from it, it says, "Have you moved without updating your voter registration?"  If you mark yes, below it says street address:  You would have to look back to the left, separated by a thick black line on the form to see it was the former address that they were looking for.  Many elderly people did not get it.  They put their current address in the box and left their actual address box empty and their ballot was disregarded.  These people had a signature and name to compare; they had a date of birth; they had the last 4 digits of their social security number or their driver’s license number BUT their current address was in the wrong place and their vote was discarded.

Many provisional ballots are being thrown out by our local Board of Elections. We have looked at these ballots and some of the reasons are below.  The following is a list of reasons we have found that provisional ballots have been rejected and the person’s vote was not counted.  Some of the ballots did not have an actual reason and the below reasons are what we could figure out:

  • A person had last 4 digits of their social and last 4 digits of their driver’s license.  The instructions said: For ID – last 4 digits of your social or Ohio Driver’s license number.  Person put last 4 of social and ONLY last 4 of Ohio Driver’s License.  It was not accepted.
  • A person made a mistake on the first digit of the last four digits of social and clearly wrote the correct number over top of it.  It was bold and dark, it was obvious it was the correct number but it was thrown out.
  • Another person put the 4 numbers of their address in the wrong boxes and went back and corrected over top.  There was a SS#, date of birth and a signature to verify, and their vote was still thrown out.
  • A person put their SS in the OH DL box and put an arrow pointing down to the SS# boxes where it should have been and it was thrown out.  It was clear what they meant.
  • A person left their printed name off of the line that said NAME: __________________and the rest of the form was fine.  She signed her name and the signature was very legible, but they did not count the vote because the name was not printed in the appropriate box. The written signature was very clear as to the person’s name.  There was no doubt!
  • A person went to the wrong polling location and the poll worker did not provide help to the voter and gave the man a provisional ballot to vote at the wrong precinct and then his ballot was rejected.
  • A person had a good signature, date of birth, last 4 digits of social security, street address and driver’s license number but left off their city – Cleveland and State – Ohio, their address consisted of the numbers of the address and street name, so their ballot was thrown out.  The rest of the address was on this person’s registration.
  • A person’s vote was thrown out by a typo on their zip code.  A zip code was put on the eligibility form as 44109 when it was actually 44119. All other parts of the address were correct, the DOB matched, the driver’s license was present, the last 4 of the social were present and the person showed their ID to the election official but the typo on the zip seems to be the reason her vote was thrown out.
  • Another person born in the 1930’s printed their zip 1 digit off and made a mistake on their last 4 of their social security number and corrected the social by writing darker over top of the incorrect numeral.  Even though there was a date of birth, signature to match and the last 4 of their ss#, their vote was thrown out.
  • There was a woman accidently put her city in the box for her last name.  Her signature was clear; all the other information was correct and the information was printed on the absentee ballot correctly. 
  • There were individuals in jail on misdemeanor charges (so they were eligible to vote), and could not figure out if the jail address should be listed on the current address box or could not remember the address that they had used for their registration. They were a couple of digits off, but had no way to open their wallet to check their address from a jail cell. 

Many provisional ballots were thrown out with Dates of Birth, Driver’s License numbers, last 4 digits of SS# and addresses on the form.  It seemed like there was plenty of information to verify the person’s identity.  Many of the votes that were thrown out were elderly people, 60 -80+ years old who took the time to go to the polls and vote or took the time to mail in their ballot.  There has to be a better way to make sure that people who take the time to go to the polls or send in their ballot by mail have their vote counted!

by Denise Toth

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Rep. Fudge Also Asks Justice to Investigate Ohio

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge has asked that the Department of Justice investigate voting practices in Ohio after another series of "corrections" in the law from earlier this year.  The new law will mean that fewer provisional ballots will count, and the agreements that NEOCH struck with the State are no longer valid.  Those who show up to vote in person without the proper ID will be able to vote by provisional ballot, but it is unlikely that those ballots will count in the end.  NEOCH has always worried that homeless people who show up in person on election day to vote will be given a worthless piece of paper to cast a ballot.  As one of the founders of the local ID Collaborative, I know that it can take 60 to 90 days sometimes to get a birth certificate from a number of states.  Birth certificates are the basis of all ID. 

These laws do not secure the ballot in Ohio, but act as a barrier for low income, homeless, minority and seniors from voting.  We all understand how easy it is to vote by mail, but there are many people who do not believe that vote by mail is secure and so they want to vote in person on election day.  These die-hards who love the civic nature of voting in person risk losing the right to vote if they do not have the correct identification.  They may have voted in the same place for the last 40 years, and no longer keep an updated state identification their ballot faces challenge.  Our agreement was that they could use their social security number on the provisional ballot to prove their identification.  This was thrown out by the legislature this year.  Why??   There is no proof of people showing up in person and voting duplicate ballots or foreigners pretending to be citizens and voting in large numbers. The other side always says, "If one ballot cast is corrupt it diminishes the vote for all of us."  Strange that this policy of one violation of the law impacts us all is only enforced when it comes to voting.  It does not apply to one vote purchased by lobbyists that is much easier in the Citizen's United era.  It does not apply to gun violence, corporate corruption that causes injury in the auto industry or predatory lending of our veterans.  Also strange that the people who have to bear the burden of additional scrutiny of the ballots seem to vote for one party which happens to not be in power in Ohio. 

Thank you so much Rep. Fudge for intervening and asking for a Voting Rights investigation of Ohio Election officials. We have placed Rep. Fudge's letter on the page we dedicated to this issue here.

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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Medicaid and Voter Suppression in State House

The State House of Representatives is releasing their budget this week. There is good news in the budget released by the Governor in February and then his transportation budget veto in March.  The Governor is supporting an expansion of Medicaid in the budget for 2015 to 2016.  This has not received much criticism despite the tricky way that it was passed into law in 2013.  If you remember the Medicaid expansion was bypassed by the legislature and the Governor slipped it into the Controlling Board budget.  There was so much rhetoric about overturning "Obamacare" and not expanding Medicaid. So far in the first two months that this budget has been out we have heard very little about Medicaid expansion.  There is no controversy it seems even though the State will have to pick up 10% of the cost in 2016. 

Why is there no there controversy?  The cost of dismantling Medicaid expansion would be enormous for the State.  All of these 200,000 people who now are getting prescription drugs would need to be provided some alternative.  All the hospitals in rural communities that are benefiting from the federal government reimbursing them for care would have to find alternatives.  In the South, those hospitals are struggling to stay alive or closing because there was no way to pay for cost of care to the poor.  The expansion of clinics and new health care facilities in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati would close down and the communities would have to deal with the loss of health care jobs.  The Health Corridor in Cleveland would shrink to a couple of facilities.  The emergency rooms would again be packed with many uninsured residents, and cities would have to scramble to find additional health care money for their citizens.  Elected officials will be faced with coming up with funds for more EMS trips, more psychiatric problems, and more involvement with law enforcement because of out of control health issues. 

The other bit of good news was the Governor Kasich issued veto of the unrelated bit of voting restrictions slipped into the transportation bill.  This would have forced students to register their car within Ohio if they change their residence to Ohio.  They would have 30 days to register their car after they change their residence to Ohio in voting.  This would be very difficult for the local boards to enforce, and would dissuade students from changing their residence for voting.  Governor Kasich recognized all the problems and the potential lawsuit and vetoed this short sighted proposal.  Why don't legislators want to encourage student voting and encourage students studying in Ohio to remain here?  Why are they trying to put up all these barriers?  Why do they continue to try to encourage voting lawsuits? Thanks to the Governor for turning back further voting restrictions.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Welcome to Ohio Elections, Justice Department--What Took You So Long?

Today, the Justice Department said that they were going to challenge recent changes to the election procedures and election law in Ohio.  This is welcome news and long overdue.  There is no reason for the loss of "Golden Week" except to keep poor people from voting.  Golden week allowed homeless people to vote and change their registration at the same time.  There were 30 days before the election to verify the information and little chance of fraud. The Justice Department is also filing a brief opposed to the Wisconsin voter ID law.

The reduction in the number of hours available to not include evening and weekend hours can only be seen as racist or class-ist or both.  One federal court has already forced the state to open on the weekend before the election because that is when people want to vote.   Hundreds of thousands of citizens vote in the evening and weekend, so why not make it easier for them?  Why not allow big counties to have extended hours because this is what taxpayers desire.  Cuyahoga County has a harder time getting the half million potential voters into the limited space of the Board of Elections when compared to Lake, Erie or Portage Counties.  Some of the other myths about this voting issue in Ohio are:

1. Democrats voted against the original 2005 legislation which expanded early voting.  FALSE! Democrats voted against the voting legislation in 2005 for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with early voting.  There were a number of poison pills in the legislation including the ID provision that all were litigated.  There were some good things like expanded early voting, but overall it was a harmful bill that restricted access to the ballot box.  We could have used the Justice Department to step in and shut down the law in 2005. 

2. Most surrounding states have less time to vote--so what!  Ohio tax payers have been voting in the evening and on the weekend for nearly a decade in large numbers.  Government should give the people what they want.  We should serve the needs of the people and not make the people serve the needs of government.  This should be a bipartician position that government should work for the people and should be available when people want to vote. 

3. If they do not like the hours then just vote by mail.  There are so many older individuals who do not believe that voting should be done by mail.  They do not trust it and they do not believe that this is true voting.   They don't like figuring out the postage, and they want some professional to help them complete the form so that their ballot will count.  Again, give the people what they want--plenty of early in person voting!

4. Why is voting so polarizing in America?   The comments on the bottom of these articles in the newspapers are so hateful toward lower income people who seem to have pulled off a fraud in voting in a sympathetic President twice.  It just seems like there is an element of racism in restricting access to the ballot box, and we welcome the Justice Department into the state to fight this racism. 

By the way, we have placed the voting button on many pages on our webpage that you can click on the button to go directly to our voting section.  Or you can do a search on voting on any of our pages.  We have update everything in our voting section for the upcoming election including voting hours. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Another Nice Sound of Ideas on Voting

This morning on WCPN 90.3 was another good Sound of Ideas radio program on voting rights in Ohio.   Mike McIntyre did a good job trying to move beyond the spin and talking points regarding the big changes taking place in Ohio regarding voting.  It was nice that he asked Secretary of State Jon Husted my question that I submitted about the market wanting weekend voting and Golden Week voting so why won't government respond to the people instead of saying we have to respond to government?   He also asked Subodh's question about disenfranchisement of African American voters in large urban communities.   We never got to hear a debate about large populations like Cuyahoga County not being able to get the 700,000 registered voters through the lines when we have the same hours as the 14,000 voters in Van Wert County.  The reason that these have been local decisions is that each jurisdiction is not the same, and may want to serve their voters with additional hours or multiple vote by mail contacts if that is what "we the people" demand. 

This does not allow equal access to the early voting because it is not fair to to only be open 16 hours on Saturday in Cuyahoga County when tens of thousands want to cast a vote while only a couple dozen want to cast a Saturday ballot in some of the smaller counties.  Why should a Cuyahoga County voter have to wait in a two hour line because there is just not enough space within the building while a Holmes County voter can walk in and cast a ballot without waiting?  Carrie Davis of the League of Women voters did a good job in defending broad access to the ballot box without all these restrictions.  She advocated for serving the people in the way that they want to vote.  If thousands want to vote in the evening in Cuyahoga County then why not allow that?   If 50 counties feel it is too expensive to be open in the evening why should those restrictions carry the day?   We pay high taxes in Cuyahoga County and we want to be able to vote when it is convenient to vote.  Most want government to be accommodating to the voters.

Dale Fellows from Lake County kept making the point that the professional bureacrats know better than the voters.  The Boards of Election officials are smarter than the voters of Ohio.  He also repeatedly attempted to deceive the listeners that if Democrats had their way there would not be Golden Week because they had voted against the 2005 law.   This was incorrect since there was not a separate vote on Golden Week in the legislature.  There was a horrible bill that included voter ID provisions, restrictions on naturalized citizens and other problems that resulted in many court cases from the 2005 law.  The overall bill was confusing and a poor piece of legislation but it did contain one improvement in the process with no fault early voting.  Democrats did not support the overall bill, but I am sure would have supported a stand alone early voting bill. 

We have posted more details in the new restrictions on provisional voting here.   We also posted a one page on the changes that were made recently in Ohio in the voting law from the Ohio League of Women Voters. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

More Limits on Voting in Ohio

A number of editorial boards have condemned these voter suppression bills. The Plain Dealer editorial is here. Toledo Blade has weighed in opposing the changes in February.  Democrats all opposed the changes, and have threatened lawsuits.  It looks like we will again spend the spring and summer engaged in many lawsuits over the process of casting a ballot in Ohio.  There is a perception that all these changes are being done for purely political reasons.   The picture on the side of this story is the line at the Cuyahoga Board of Elections on the Sunday before the November election in 2012.  These lines were replicated all over the state showing that there was demand for Sunday voting, but the legislature wants us to conform to the wishes of government and not force government to conform to the wishes of the people. 

Besides the three laws passed that eliminate Golden week, tighten controls over provisional ballots so that fewer ballots will count, and prevented anyone but the State legislature from sending out absentee ballot request forms the Secretary of State has taken action to limit early voting.  Jon Husted has eliminated the popular voting on Sunday. He has prevented local boards from opening in the evenings, which will make it harder for individuals to cast an early vote.   We will have to have the same hours as the smallest counties in Ohio for early voting which will just increase the lines around the boards.  Then last week he sided with the two Republicans down in Hamilton county to move the main polling place way outside of the downtown for early voting in Cincinnati. 

All of these activities can only be viewed as making it hard for the voters from one political party from casting a ballot.  The times that were popular for African Americans, low income people, and students are all being reduced.  If these times remain intact after the challenges, we are guaranteed to see long lines on Election Day 2016 in Akron, Cleveland, Oberlin, Wooster, Franklin County, Hamilton County, and other communities. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Early Voting Has Begun

For homeless people the easiest way to vote is in person at the Board of Elections for early voting. NEOCH encourages homeless people to vote in person at the Board of Elections early.   To request an early voting ballot by mail click here.  It is much easier because just like voting by mail you do not have to show identification.  The hours for early voting are:


• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, October 7, 2013, through Friday, November 1, 2013;
• 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Saturday, November 2, 2013;
• 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sunday, November 3, 2013;

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, November 4, 2013.

Despite what people think, it is not easy to get identification.  There was a letter to the editor on September in the Plain Dealer by Michael Tracy who was trying to help his 84 year old Army veteran father a state ID. 

"Last month, I took my infirm father to the Bureau of Moter Vehicles to get a state ID.  We had a Social Security card, a Medicare card, a valid out of state driver's license, a credit card, tax records, bank statements, etc.  This was insufficient to receive a state ID.

The problem was the gentleman need proof of citizenship (passport or birth certificate).   The letter goes on to explain the circular logic in the world of identification in which he needed an state ID to receive a copy of his birth certificate, but to receive a State ID he needed a birth certificate.  Tracy summed it up with, " Even in difficult times, shouldn't our government bureacracies still work for the people who need them the most?"

While people are struggling to get identification and have a hard time voting, the State Legislature is working on a package of "reform" that will make it more difficult for this 84 Army veteran to vote and will make it more inconvenient in Ohio to vote. There are three bills introduced by Representative John Becker.  Below are the comments from the Ohio Fair Elections Network.

House Bill 250

The Ohio Fair Elections Network, a coalition of national, state and local fair elections advocates, decried the introduction of H.B. 250, a bill seeking to limit Ohio’s early vote period from 35 days to 17 days. The bill was introduced by Representative John Becker (R-Union Township), and currently has only 3 co-sponsors.

In 2011, the legislature passed remarkably similar restrictions to early voting in H.B. 194. Over 300,000 Ohioans signed a petition to referendum H.B. 194, which temporarily stopped the law from going into effect. Greg Moore of Fair Elections Ohio recalled, “the legislature then took the extraordinary step of repealing H.B. 194 before it went before the voters. He questioned, “if the legislature recognized that severe cuts to early voting were so unpopular in 2012, why resurrect the same bad idea a year later?”

Deidra Reese of Ohio Voice noted the popularity of early voting among both voters and Boards of Elections. “Early voting is convenient and flexible enough to accommodate the busiest of voters’ schedules. She added, it’s also well-liked by Boards of Elections because it is a cost-saving measure that eases congestion in the polling place, and reduces stress on poll workers and voting machines.”

House Bill 266

H.B. 266 was introduced in September.  According to the summary the bill's purpose is to: generally prohibit the mailing of unsolicited election forms and prepayment of postage for the return of election forms and to clarify that a board of elections is responsible to send and receive absent voter's ballot materials.

It permits the SoS to mail registration forms and absentee ballots unsolicited, but prohibits county BOEs from doing so.

The full text can be found here http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_HB_266

House Bill 263

The Ohio Fair Elections Network, a coalition of national, state and local fair elections advocates, criticized the latest election bills introduced by Representative John Becker (R-Union Township). House Bill 263 narrowly sets early voting hours from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and prohibits early voting on evenings and
weekends. A second bill, H.B. 266, prohibits county boards of elections from using their own discretion to send absentee ballots to all registered voters in the county. In addition, H.B. 266 prevents public assistance agencies from sending unsolicited voter registration applications, a possible violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The limits on the hours for early voting proposed in H.B. 266, is compounded by the limits on the days for early voting proposed in H.B. 263, which would cut early voting in half from 35 days to 17 days.

Camille Wimbish of Ohio Voice said, “Early voting is very popular in Ohio. In the last weekend before the 2012 election, over 60,000 votes were cast across all counties.” She questioned, “Why would Rep. Becker attempt to restrict the days and hours of early voting, when it will certainly make if more difficult for voters to have access to the ballot box?”  Rep. Becker’s claim that the proposed cuts to early voting will result in cost-savings is also in dispute. Franklin County Board of Elections Member Zach Manifold stated, “The convenience and flexibility of early voting has allowed counties to save a tremendous amount of money through precinct consolidation.

This legislation will reverse those cost- savings, as fewer people voting early will require more election staff, poll workers, and voting machines on Election Day.” He noted, “Additionally, this legislation will force small counties that only needed part time hours to meet the early voting demands of their voters, to spend significantly more taxpayer money to stay open full-time.

Others voiced concerns about the impact of preventing public assistance agencies from mailing voter registration applications to low income citizens. Norman Robbins of the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates observed, “This prohibition only exacerbates the disparity between applicants at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, where applicants must refuse a pre-filled registration form, and low-income applicants for public assistance benefits, who must fill out a complete form, often in the middle of a family crisis.” He noted, “This bill would increase the number of costly provisional ballots by making changes-of-address more difficult for the very people who move the most.” He added, “Not only does H.B. 266 send a harmful message that voting rights are not equal among Ohio’s poor, but the bill likely violates federal law.”

There is a Mayor's race, city council races, a Library levy and the Health and Human Services Levy.  There are school district levies and municipal judges up for election.

Go Out and Vote!!

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Do We Need Early Voting?

Thank you, Ohio legislators for protecting us from having to get up from our Playstations on the weekend to go vote!  We are so glad that you are saving us from President Obama who spent time and resources in Ohio to open up weekend voting so that we will have less time to spend with our families on that weekend before the election in 2014.   We "support" State Representative John Becker's effort to cut down on early voting because 35 days is just too tempting to try to vote multiple times with so many days available. Ohioans may vote the first week in October and then forget and try to vote again on Election Day.  Why should we make it easy for people to vote?  As Becker has stated he wants to make it easier for Boards of Election employees so they can focus on getting ready for the election.  It should be a chore that is very difficult to accomplish with long wait times so that the "I Voted Today" sticker is a badge of honor. The sticker should be more of metal that shows the citizen did some work and planned for a long wait.  They shouldn't just give those out to anyone who walks up to a table and marks a few chicken scratches on a piece of paper. 

It was "chaotic" over at the Board of Elections office with hundreds of thousands taking advantage of the only weekend hours available in 2012.  So, instead of expanding weekend voting it makes sense to just eliminate all early voting.  Why else do we open our Boards of Elections offices for voting except to make it easy for those employees?  We don't want to put any stress or pressure on these trained employees or the hundreds of temporary employees added for that month?  After all, Becker was elected to represent the best interest of County employees as he showed in his consecutive votes to decimate local and county State funding.  The pain of massive budget cuts will only make them stronger, but at least they won't need to work on the weekend of 2014.  All county workers helping with voting deserve the same peaceful and quiet time of the employees of Becker's Claremont County board of elections.  We should set voting hours and state wide voting policy based on what is best for the staff of the rural boards of elections in Ohio. 

Thank you for protecting Ohio citizens from themselves who were confused about when to vote and went out by the thousands to vote early.  We go to church or synagogue on Saturday or Sunday and we should only vote on Tuesdays.  Thanks for making it harder for homeless people so that they see the value of voting since 77% of the people we registered in the summer of 2012 voted between Friday November 2 and Monday November 5, 2012.   It is better to wait in an eight hour line like they did in 2004 in Oberlin and Wooster rather than wait in a two hour line like they did in 2012 in many big cities in Ohio, because you cannot really get to know your neighbor in only two hours.  There are college and professional football games to watch on the weekend in October and November.  Thank you Representative Becker for saving us from having to vote on the weekend.  You really should think about running for governor since this legislation benefits all Ohioans, and not just those in your home community. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of only those who sign the entry.

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

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.