United State of Voting Forum

 “Voting is how we demonstrate our power…and we have an equal opportunity, or should to express that power”- Julie Fernandes, Advocacy Director, Open Society Foundations.

The "United State of Voting," a voting rights town hall meeting, was hosted by Congresswoman Marcia Fudge at Cleveland State University on the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.  The town hall style forum emphasized both the importance of understanding the historical context of voting-and the importance of voting in communities across the nation. The matter is especially timely, with the November election quickly approaching-what will be the most “consequential election” of our lifetimes-a sentiment shared by both the panel, specifically Congressman James Clyburn (SC-6), and audience members alike.

The discussion began with a conversation about Golden Week, something, that as of late is still being discussed by the courts. Golden Week allows for a week of in-person voting at the same time of registration-a tool that has been used primarily by minority communities, and made it possible for approximately 60,000 voters to cast their ballots in the 2008 General Election and approximately 80,000 ballots to be cast in the 2012 General Election (MSNBC). This same law that is currently before the courts would also reduce the number of days the Board of Elections is open for early in-person voting from 35 days to just 28 days.

The argument that “Golden Week” and reducing the number of days for early in-person voting prior to an election, was not seen by the panel as an effective way to reduce voter fraud (the states reasoning behind the appeal after the district court ruling, although illegal voting/fraud represents just 0.02% of registered voters), but instead, a continued addition to the list of restrictions and hardships that are being put in place to make it more difficult to vote (MSNBC). These strategies are in direct opposition with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, specifically section 2 and in direct violation with the 14th Amendment-which states; “ equal protection under law” (U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment).

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was implemented in order to enforce the 15th Amendment-which identified; “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (United States Constitution, 15th Amendment). Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), it has both been amended and reauthorized by congress many times-the most recent of which took place in 2006. However, even with such legislation in place, panelists stated with grave concern the Supreme Court Case, (The Shelby County v. Holder decision), in 2013 and explained how the decision to dismantle Section 4 of the VRA has undermined the very premise of voting being a right, and instead reframes the discussion to voting being a privilege.

Section 4 states that states and local governments with histories of discrimination must go to the federal government in order to obtain approval if the state or municipality wishes to change voting policies. The 5-4 decision, has made it possible for states and local governments to implement restrictive policies that negatively impact minority and low-income voters. From I.D. laws to purge processes- there has been and will continue to be a devastating impact on vulnerable populations. Here is a list of the 17 states that will have new restrictions that will be in place for the 2016 election or have been tightened (Brennan Center for Justice):

  • Alabama:  a photo I.D. is now required to vote (2014). Proof of citizenship is now required when registering to vote using the national form (2016).
  • Arizona: new legislation in place to limit mail-in ballot collection. Now, unless you are a direct family member, caregiver or postal service employee-it is now a felony to collect and turn-in another person’s ballot (2016).
  • Georgia: Proof of citizenship is now required when registering to vote using the national form (2016). Early in-person voting was reduced from 45 days to 21 days (2011).
  • Indiana: legislation now in place to allow an additional official at polling locations to inforce I.D. requirements (2014).
  • Kansas: a photo I.D. is now required to vote (2012). Proof of citizenship is now required when registering to vote using the federal form (2016).
  • Mississippi:  a photo I.D. is now required to vote (2011).
  • Nebraska:  reduced days for early voting (2014).
  • New Hampshire: Voter without acceptable forms of I.D. must take a photo at the polls and attach it to an affidavit (2015).
  • North CarolinaSame day registration was eliminated, as was early registration for 16-and -17-year-olds (2014), photo I.D. now required to vote (2016).
  • North Dakota: a photo I.D. is now required to vote (2015).
  • Ohio: Reduced early voting period/elimination of Golden Week (before the courts after state appealed the decision that the new restrictions were unconstitutional), absentee and provisional ballot rules changed (2014).
  • Rhode Island: Voter without acceptable forms of I.D. must take a photo at the polls and attach it to an affidavit (2014).
  • South Carolina: photo I.D. is requested to vote.
  • TennesseePhoto I.D. is required to vote, a reduced early voting period, and proof of citizenship is now required to register to vote (2014).
  • Texas: a photo I.D. is now required to vote (2014), and voting registration drive restrictions went into effect in 2011.
  • Virginia: a photo I.D. is now required to vote (2014), and there are also strict rules on third-party voter registration that were implemented in 2013.
  • Wisconsin: a photo I.D. is now required to vote (2015), reduced time period for early voting (2014), and implemented restrictions on individual registration (2011).

While the most important takeaway from this event is the distinction that voting is a right, not a privilege-as the VRA and constitution suggest. The panel reiterated the fact that there is still more we can do to change this wave of restrictive voting laws in our country, the first being to start the conversation. In this political climate you often hear, “how do I chose between the lesser of two evils” and instead of showing up to vote, these individuals opt-out. However, as Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-2) stated “on November 9th we will have a new president, whether you vote or not” and we need to continue to work together to prevent the voter apathy and exhaustion that has resulted as a byproduct of a very tumultuous election year and panel members drew a clear parallel to the recent events happening in Europe with Brexit-explaining that this is what happens when people opt-out of the process.

The frustration is clear, but there are a variety of ways we can continue to fight for equitable voting practices. The first being, restoring Section 4 of the VRA. The second is to continue voter registration drives, and continue with community education-this will be a key component if we wish to increase voter turnout. If you do see violations against people’s right to vote, you can report those violations to the following national hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE, a national coalition of voting rights advocates working to “advance and defend the right to vote”.

More Information on the above topics can be found below:

For new voting restrictions and an interactive map:

 http://www.brennancenter.org/voting-restrictions-first-time-2016

Voting restrictions in Ohio:

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/ohio-battle-rages-over-access-voting

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/inside-purge-tens-thousands-ohio-voters/story?id=39586417

More information on the Shelby County v. Holder Decision:

https://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/desktop/document/Shelby_Cnty_v_Holder_No_1296_2013_BL_167707_US_June_25_2013_Court?1466986835

http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/shelby-county-v-holder/

Also, we have a ton of information on our website by clicking on the "Vote" button on the side of the website. 

by Katy Carpenter

All opinions represent the views of those who sign the entry

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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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

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

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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NEOCH Board Endorses Issue 1 for Fair Redistricting

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Board of Trustees voted to endorse Issue #1 on the ballot in November 2015. 

NEOCH joins the Coalition on Homeless and Housing in Ohio, the Ohio League of Women Voters and the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition in supporting this state ballot issue. 

Bipartisan

  • Creates a new seven-member bipartisan panel called the “Ohio Redistricting Commission.”
  • The commission must have at least two members from the minority party.
  • Requires the commission to be co-chaired by two members, one chosen by each party.
  • Requires at least two votes from each party in order to approve a district plan, otherwise a temporary plan is put in place and the commission must reconvene to redraw it.

Transparent

  • Requires all commission meetings be open to the public and broadcast by electronic means of transmission using a medium readily accessible by the general public.
  • The commission must hold a minimum of three public hearings.
  • Before voting on a district plan, the commission is required to present the proposal to the public and to seek public input.
  • Requires the commission to submit a statement to the public explaining their process.

Fairness

  • Protects against gerrymandering by prohibiting any plan from primarily favoring one political party.
  • Requires districts to closely follow the statewide preferences of the voters.

Accountable

  • Creates a process for the Ohio Supreme court to order the commission to redraw the map if the plan favors one political party.

Protects Communities

  • Keeps our communities together by requiring a district plan to split as few counties, municipal corporations, and townships as possible.”
We believe in fair elections without gerrymandered districts to consolidate the power of any political party.  We believe that competative elections are healthy for our democracy and compromise leads to lasting solutions.  We urge a "yes" vote on Issue #1 in November of 2015.

Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Voting Lawsuit Settlement Will Not Help Homeless People

The American Civil Liberties Union settled a lawsuit with the Secretary of State over early voting this month.  We got a couple of extra weekend days of voting, but we lost the principle.  I say we, because homeless people have been a part of lawsuits about early voting in the past and many of the Souls to the Polls ministers assisted with transporting homeless people.  This settlement did not help more homeless people to vote and it did little for poor people. 

Why can't people who move frequently register a change of address and vote at the same time?  Why can't we allow people to register and vote 35 days out while there is plenty of time to check on their eligibility? Or even 15 days out? There are states that allow same day registration and their elections are secure.  Isn't early in person registration and voting more secure than voting by mail where we have no idea who is actually casting the vote? 

All that trouble to sue and in the end it is not easier to vote in Ohio.  The so-called Golden week where a resident can vote and register in person at the Board of Elections was worth fighting for.  It was a symbol of the State encouraging the lowest income to vote by making it as easy as possible.   Golden Week was a turning away from the Poll Taxes of the South and all the efforts to make it hard for minority populations to cast a ballot.  This is a sad settlement which allows the State of Ohio to limit the ability of lower income people to vote.  If the conservatives can force civil libertarians into settlements that makes it harder for poor people to vote, where will they go next?  They base all these changes on "securing against fraud," which does not really exist.  What other fake threats can conservatives invent to limit access to the ballot box?  What other restrictions on voting will they test?  How far away are literacy tests or mandatory State IDs to vote or limiting the number of staff who can help with voting causing huge lines in urban centers? 

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.

More News Briefs from this Week

Huffington Post posted a commentary about how homelessness has decreased.  We have covered how ridiculous the HUD count is and statistically invalid these numbers are in the real world.  We also know that the folks at Laura's Home/City Mission would disagree.  If any national expert tells you that homelessness is down, they have no credibility with what is going on in the real world.

Brennan Center for Justice has a series of commentaries from state's that changed their voting procedures. DeNora Getachew, from the Brennan Center, is looking at the changes in voting that took place in the 2014 election.  She has looked at Texas, Iowa, and Ohio so far.  She interviewed me and staff from Souls to the Polls to talk about the harm caused by the loss of Golden Week and evening hours to vote early.   One interesting note, the progressive state of Illinois is working to increase access to voting with new legislation:

  1. It will implement electronic registration, which means more voters will have the opportunity to sign up when they interact with a government agency.
  2. It will create a permanent same-day registration (SDR) system. SDR will increase convenience by allowing citizens to register and vote on the same day, either before or on Election Day.
  3. It will increase early voting options by extending them to include the three days — most notably, the Saturday and Sunday — before Election Day.

San Jose has completed clearing "The Jungle" which some say is the largest number of people in one encampment.  This is one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States and there were over 60 acres of tents and self constructed homes that were torn down.  The San Jose Mercury News editorialized about the cost of not providing housing to these residents.  The LA Times looked at the issue here. Huffington asks the relevant question what happened to those who were "cleared" from this encampment?

The White House posted an entry on their blog about the Cuyahoga County Pay for Success program. We looked at the issue here

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

NEOCH Files Suit to Protect Provisional Voters

As was reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch, NEOCH filed suit regarding the counting of provisional ballots with SB 216 against the State of Ohio. This is an extension of our 2006 lawsuit regarding identification and voting.  Our settlement was that homeless people without ID had a right to vote.   This typically involved provisional ballots, and so we had an interest in making sure that the County Boards of Elections counted the provisional ballots.

The new law required completion of the envelope without a mistake and would throw out the entire ballot if their were errors in the completion of the absentee or provisional ballot.  The problem was that there was not a standard that each County had to meet.  We attempted to negotiate a directive to clarify the law with the Secretary of State.  For a Secretary of State who was pushing for standard early voting hours, he would want a standard counting method throughout the state for absentee and provisional ballots.  We are afraid that there would be some counties who reject most of their provisional ballots on highly technical grounds while others would be more permissive. 

These were the same plaintiffs involved in the 2006 lawsuit who fought to allow low income voters to vote even if they did not have an ID.  We worked on this lawsuit since the summer and negotiated with the State over clarifications.  We were not looking for a decision before the current election, but we want the federal courts to decide if voter intent should count as opposed to the ability to follow sometimes confusing instructions.  Ohio should try to figure out a way to enfranchise as many voters as possible including those who have a difficult time understanding the written word. 

We hope that the court will allow us discovery in this case to see the impact on SB 216 on voting in Ohio.   We hope to be able to take a look at the percentage of rejected ballots across the state to see if there are discrepancies from one county to the next. 

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.

National Updates on Homelessness

Barb Poppe Stepping down at InterAgency Council

Our friend, Barb Poppe, from Columbus Ohio former shelter director and current US InterAgency Council on Homelessness has announced that she will step down next month.  She is the wife of COHHIO Director, Bill Faith and was the coordinator of funding in Columbus Ohio for years.  The InterAgency Council publishes reports on homelessness and was the first agency to push a housing first strategy.  They also have a really nice newsletter.  Barb put her stamp on the agency by focusing on the rise in family homelessness and beginning to talk about the problem of youth homelessness.  The InterAgency Council is supposed to work with all the federal departments (Social Security, HHS, HUD, Labor and others) that may have cross agency concerns with homeless people.  For example, Social Security not giving out printouts is going to make it difficult for homeless people to get ID which makes it difficult to access entitlements and health care.  The USIAC is looking into the problem that privately funded shelters are having with coordinated intake in Cleveland. 

Surplus Military Property Available in Sandusky

Federal law requires that military surplus property be offered to homeless programs before being sold.  This is rather a dubious law since military bases are rarely in the heart of an urban city where there are large numbers of homeless people.  But it is the law, and NEOCH receives notices of federal surplus property.  This year it is the Rye Beach Pumping Station on Columbus Ave. in Sandusky Ohio 44870.   It is GSA Control Number 1-Z-OH-598-2-AB or HUD number 52401410002 if you want to claim it for a homeless program in Sandusky Ohio.  How you would turn a 6,424 square foot pumping building and 60K of water piping into anything useful for people without housing is difficult to imagine?  The property was listed in the federal register and is available through the General Services Administration in Chicago until March 10.  Good luck and please invite us to the grand opening of the pumping station/homeless shelter.  We would love some pictures of that. 

Justice Department Urges States to Forgive Felons And Allow them to Vote

Attorney General Eric Holder is reaching out to ask the States to restore voting rights to those felons who have paid their debt to society.  Kentucky and Virginia never allow a felon to vote.  Those released from incarceration and probation are stripped of their rights for the rest of their life.  Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming force the individual to beg and plead with the state to restore their voting rights.   There is an estimated 5 million Americans who need to move to a state that forgive and allow people to move on.  I have never understood why we have a national election for President, and we allow each state to do their own thing when it comes to electing the Commander and Chief.  Why can some states disenfranchise felons?  Why can some states require burdensome proof that poor people cannot produce?  Why do some states (Florida, I am speaking of you) make students and old people wait for three hours to vote?  Why do some states allow same day registration and others allow voting by mail?  How is this a fair system?  Holder said about the felons:

"By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes," Holder said during a speech at a criminal justice reform event hosted by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights at Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday.

Psychiatric Drugs and Medicaid

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is asking the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to not implement the changes to Medicare Part D.  NAMI alleges that this will make it difficult to get anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications.  The changes will take these drugs off the preferred list of drugs, and may limit their usage in 2015.  NAMI has put a petition together to oppose these changes.   Here is the link.

National Coalition for the Homeless on Bitter Cold

National Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director, Jerry Jones, was on the NPR Program Tell Me More about the extreme weather and its impact on homelessness.  Unfortunately, news reports have identified 10 homeless people died because of the extreme cold weather.   Jones did a good job explaining the hardships faced by the population; the folly of making it illegal to curl up in a doorway; and the strange concept of figuring out how cold it should be before opening an "overflow" or cold weather shelter.  Some cities say 40 degrees or 32 degrees or 20 degrees before they open an winter shelter, which makes it difficult for those without housing to adjust to the winter.  I have advocated that every city in the United States should provide shelter to everyone who shows up for help like we do in Cleveland.  If you are a tax payer in the richest country in the history of the world and you lose your housing, your government should offer you a warm place inside.  Think of the madness in many cities which close the shelters when they get to a certain number and the temperature outside is 34 degrees. Then the law enforcement arm of the city go out and arrest the person who could not find a bed and instead is sleeping on the doors of a religious organization.  This is America in 2014.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.