Ohio Lost Golden Week

We would be driving homeless people to the polls today if we still had Golden Week.  This is the best time for homeless people to participate because they can update their address at the same time they vote.  No hassles and for those who move frequently this is the best way to participate in Democracy.

The Federal Appeals Court down in Cincinnati overturned the district court to eliminate Golden Week in Ohio.  The sole reason seems to be that other states around us have fewer opportunities to vote so therefore Ohioans should suffer as well.  This is the worst reason since we cannot move to a state just because they have better rules for voting.  Voting is tied to our residences, so once we get accustomed to voting early and voting and registering at the same time, and retreat is a taking of our rights.   The basis for the suit and the basis for the victory at the district court level was that African American and minority populations use Golden Week.   Ohio legislators and the Courts are making it more difficult if we take away a right that a minority population was using.  It does not matter if Indiana does not allow early voting because Ohio voters do not live in Indiana. 

There is no way to look at this written decision except purely done for political reasons.  The lower court decision was supportive of Golden Week and recognized that this was a way to make it easier to vote for Ohioans. Here are the stories about Golden Week.






Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Four Victories and a Loss

Over the last month the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has had a hign number of victories both in court and in public policy.  Last week we did have one setback in the loss of the lawsuit against the State of Ohio in their massive purge of voters from the registration database, but homeless people did see a series of successes this spring. 

First, we won the voter lawsuit against the Secretary of State regarding the thousands of voters who made minor errors on the provisional or absentee ballot outside envelope and had their ballots thrown away.  These voters may have used cursive instead of printing or had transposed one digit of a zip code and their ballot did not count.  They tried to participate in the democratic process and the State of Ohio told them that because they did not meticulously copy their information on the absentee ballot they failed. 

Most of the time the information was on the other side of the envelope printed by the County Board of Election, but it still did not count.  The state was not claiming that the voter could not be identified or was attempting to vote fraudulently.  They were just saying it is not that big of a problem that thousands of voters were disenfranchised.  The federal court disagreed, but the State almost immediately appealed.  We shall see. 

Victory number two was in early May with the hearing held by the Cuyahoga County Council Health and Human Services committee on the Community Women’s Shelter administered by Frontline Services.  It was a victory that the Council had even had this gathering and was able to hear directly from the women after years of allowing this shelter to get so out of control.  We have posted the video from the hearing and the transcript on our website here

The women who participate in the Homeless Congress had asked for twelve items to improve the shelter by September 2016 or they would recommend a new shelter provider step in to replace Frontline.  After months of no reply, we got the hearing.  At the hearing, we asked for four out of the twelve things that could be done immediately to improve the shelter.  Those included no discharges that are not in writing, no denying of bed rest orders, five days to respond to grievances in writing and termination or transfer of the staff member with the largest number of grievances at the shelter.   This final action was taken in June, and the women celebrated.   We will continue to press all the issues at the shelter and Council President Dan Brady has agreed to a committee which will report back to the Homeless Congress. 

We worked with the ACLU to assure that homeless people were not displaced or subjected to unreasonable searches during the Republican National Convention in July.   We won a series of compromises from the City of Cleveland this week in federal court.  One judge granted us much of what we asked for and the City immediately appealed.  We then agreed to mediation in lieu of a protracted appeal and worked out a compromise this week.  We will have a more detailed description of the compromise on our website.

Finally, last year West Side Catholic Center was facing extremely onerous restrictions on their mail service by their local carrier and his supervisor.   One of the many valuable services offered by the Catholic Center on the near West Side is a place for those who live outside or move regularly was the ability to receive mail.  This was extremely valuable for voting purposes and getting into housing or finding employment.  NEOCH staff felt this was one of the most critical essential services in the community, and were especially concerned if this service were to disappear.  After the agency was unable to get a satisfactory response from the Postal Service, we enlisted the help of Senator Sherrod Brown’s office.  After some confusing research and reading huge manuals, we got a meeting with senior officials from the local Postal Service.  They agreed that this was a valuable service that should continue and admitted that the carrier had been incorrect in his interpretation of the postal rules. 

We will continue to push for a reversal of the purge lawsuit, but homeless people in Cuyahoga County have had a pretty good spring with some progress.  We did hear that the purge case will get an expedited review by the appeals court

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Good News For Protecting the Rights of Voters

A Wisconsin judge has struck down the State law requiring the showing of identification in order to vote.  This is tremendous news for those who believe that voter ID laws are ways to restrict access to the ballot box.  We discuss this in more detail in our voting blog.  We appreciate that the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty were a part of the legal team on this important victory. 

In Ohio, the ACLU is leading a group to overturn new restrictions on voting. With plaintiffs representing minority voters including the NAACP, League of Women Voters and a group of churches have sued Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to overturn the new rules limiting the hours for voting.  This suit attacks the new restrictions on in person voting on the weekend and the evenings.  It also questions the validity of canceling "Golden Week" when voters can register and change their registration at the same time.  The suit says that these limitations violate the federal voting rights act and have no purpose except to limit minority participation in the November election.  Unfortunately, the group drew one of the most conservative judges in the federal system, Gregory Frost.  He was appointed by President George W. Bush and is extremely conservative.  Despite the judicial system being advertised as blind, many judges are peeking out of the blind fold looking at which way the political wind are blowing.  Frost has refused to stop the execution in January when Ohio wanted to use an untested drug combination that eventually did not go well and he ruled against the Green Party over election machine software issues.  This is going to be a huge mountain to overcome, and we should plan on long lines on the two Saturdays that are left for early in person voting. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Tell Your State Legislator to Take A Break on Voting Laws

The Ohio Senate has recommended another change in the law regarding voting procedures to correct some of the issues that came up with the November election.  There were problems with counting provisional ballots and the forms required to complete in order to cast a legitimate provisional vote.  There was a lawsuit over early voting during the last weekend before the election.  There were issues with the hours of operation at the local level for early voting, and the sending out of early voting applications to every registered voter.  There were long lines for early voting and still issues with identification that need to be addressed.  The voting process in Ohio needs major reform, but this should not be done during the lame duck session. 

There are a couple of weeks left in the legislative session, and so limited time for debate or discussion.  There is not the time for constituents to pay attention with all the other issues at both the State and National level.  We have seen the last two pieces of voting legislation passed during the lame duck session of the Ohio Congress.  These previous changes have resulted in dozens of lawsuits and a petition drive.   We must stop passing these awful changes to the voting laws.  We need time to see draft legislation, and comment on these changes.  We need time to allow both sides to point out the problems with the law so that mistakes do not continue to be passed.  For example, the confusing Provisional Ballot Affirmation form, the fact that immigrants were being challenged at the polling place in violation of federal law, and passports and military ID not included as a legitimate form of identification were all previous mistakes.  Ask your legislator to take a break from passing controversial voting legislation during the lame duck session.  Ask them to wait until 2013 to work on a bipartisan bill that will not end up in court.

Ohio House of Representatives Contacts

Ohio Senate Contacts

Respond by December 1 directly to your House or Senate Member.  Their contact information is listed above.

Save a copy of the body of your comments or drop us an email about your phone call --send them to advocacy (at) neoch(dot) org for our records at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

We have added a single sheet alert that you can print out and distribute here

Obama Campaigns Intervenes on Early Voting Hours

The Obama campaign and the Democrats have sued the State of Ohio over the hours the polling places will be open for early voting. .  This is great news, but why does every thing have to be so political in allowing people to vote?  There is no way for non-partisan groups like NEOCH to push an agenda that homeless individuals in our society will have the opportunity to vote without looking as though we are siding with one political party.  It is hard for the League of Women Voters, COHHIO or other groups to not appear as fronts for the Democratic Party.  There is no middle ground with groups that just want to figure out how to get as many people as possible to vote, and make that fundamental right of a functioning democracy as easy as possible. 

The issue is that voters will be treated differently in Ohio with veterans allowed to vote early in person while others will not be able to cast in person ballots on the last weekend before the election.  This was passed in 2011 as part of the Ohio legislatures attempt to change voting procedures.  Left leaning groups and voting groups opposed these changes and were able to get enough signatures to allow these changes to go before voters.  The state withdrew part of the legislation, but kept the requirement that Boards of Elections close the weekend before the election.  The Ohio legislature withdrew part of the changes, but not this restriction on weekend voting, and that nullified the ballot issue.  We believe that we should have been able to vote on the changes to voting to show the Ohio legislature that there is strong support for allowing every eligible voter to cast a ballot.  The Ohio Secretary of State was on WKSU yesterday saying that there is a lot of disparities between veterans and oversees voters and other voters, and reminded citizens that this was the third election that has been operated under these new rules.  One was a low turnout primary in March 2012.  One was an August 2011 local election, and the November 2011 election with the big issue being the overturning of the restriction on unions.  None of these elections come even close to the voter turnout of a Presidential election when we need extra hours to vote.  It is unfair that there is a disparity between one group of voters and others, and the court should force the state to standardize voting with the more access the better for all voters. 

Finally, why does the Plain Dealer allow anonymous comments on Cleveland.com?  They do not allow anonymous letters to the editor, so why a different standard on the website?   There is so much hate and myths being forwarded on the site.  The only positive is that it does demonstrate why we can never allow the Bill of Rights to be up for a popular vote.  "Freedom of speech is not free, so let's get rid of it, etc."  I am not sure if it is just the people who want to limit rights or those who are not big fans of minority populations in America are the individuals who comment on the site.  Or could it be that because of the anonymity on the site people say whatever they want?  I was thinking what would the comments section look like if they had figured out a way to have an easily accessible anonymous section of a newspaper in the United States of 1910 especially in stories about voting in the South and West.  Here is how I imagine these comments would look in 1910:

Right2opinion said:

If you can't take the time to learn to read the Constitution that you reference as the basis for your rights then why should we give you the right to vote for the government who are going to govern all of us?  I  don't think people of lower intelligence should be able to pick our Mayor or Governor. They would just mess up this fragile democracy.

Stockfella would have said:

It only makes sense to have to pay a tax to vote.  It costs money for government to run these elections why shouldn't you have to pay?  It is a small amount of money, and if you really value voting, you will figure out a way to pay.

richman2 would have probably commented:

The rule is simple "Any person kept in a poorhouse at public expense cannot vote."  You have to be an idiot to claim that a person being supported by my taxes deserves the right to vote.  We could have poor people electing a county sheriff who would refuse to arrest them for being a deadbeat.

BlackSquirrl would most likely add to the discussion:

It is common sense to limit voting to the best and the brightest in our society.  This is why we require a person's race be written on each ballot so we can kick out questionable ballots. This is why we allow only those who own property to vote.  C'mon, we cannot allow people living on a reservation to vote.  This is the dumbest thing ever printed.  If those people want a separate society, then how can they expect to vote on local tax or local regulations? 

These comments on the voting rights articles over the last week on Cleveland.com do not forward the argument.  They do nothing to change opinions.  They are full of conspiracy theories and false logic.  They are not well thought out pros and cons on an issue and do not provide additional information on the story. They would be ruled out of bounds in a debate for the most part.   They are spin and hate, and the Plain Dealer should not provide a venue for false statements and ad homonym attacks. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those signing the entry.