Civil Rights Activist John Lewis Talks About New "Poll Tax"

We are a not for profit organization and therefore do not get involved in partisan politics.  We have to mention the speech at the Democratic National Convention on voter ID laws.  Since this has a disproportionate impact on our constituents who are largely minority and almost entirely poor.  Representative John Lewis was a leader in the struggle for civil rights and shed blood to protect voters who do not happen to have white skin.  He is an honorable man who offers a unique personal perspective.  Lewis is up for re-election this November.  If his opponent, Howard Stopeck, wants equal space to explain his position on voter ID laws, we are willing to offer the same space to him here.  I am not sure how many people in the Georgia Fifth District are reading our blog, but we are willing to offer the space. 

My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union. Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax. On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar—all to keep them from casting their ballots.

Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state's new voter ID law is "gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state." That's not right. That's not fair. That's not just.

And similar efforts have been made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. I've seen this before. I've lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.

And we have come too far together to ever turn back. So we must not be silent. We must stand up, speak up and speak out. We must march to the polls like never before. We must come together and exercise our sacred right.

There is no way to say this better, and this is why we are in court working to expand access to the ballot box. 

Brian Davis

The opinions reflect the views of those who sign the post.

We will have Fewer Hours to Vote in 2012

Was it the disputed 2000 presidential election in which a couple of hundred votes made the difference on the next President of the United States?  Is it the fact that only 5 to 8% of the total number of voters have not made up their minds for this upcoming election?  Or was it the negative campaigning in 2004 and 2010 that made a difference in those elections?  I have no idea what the reason, but we have entered a different landscape in national elections.  We are now fighting over who can vote in every election, and there is a national campaign to disenfranchise voters especially in presidential "swing states."   Even the hours that the board of election is open to accept voters is political and there is a fight over the hours of operation.

At the end of last week, Secretary of State, Jon Husted weighed in on a tie vote in Cuyahoga County over the hours the Board will be open.  Unions and churches are going to hold a demonstration at 10 am on Monday July 16 to oppose this decision to limit the hours for early voting.   The Board voted last week in two to two tie to extend the hours on the weekend and into the evening to allow voters plenty of time to vote, as had been done in Cuyahoga County in the primary this year and in the 2010, 2008 and 2006 elections.   Why wouldn't the Secretary of State and every member of the Board of Elections want to offer every single chance for voters as possible in order to avoid the lines we saw in 2004 on election day, and the lines we saw on Saturdays and Sundays in 2008 presidential election?   I always thought that Debbie Sutherland  was a fair, middle of the road Republican who ran for County Executive and wanted to do what is best for all voters, but she voted to limit the number of hours the Board will be open. 

All ties are settled by the Secretary of State, who has already shown that he is most interested in  limiting voter turnout.  Hd did not even wait for arguments to be submitted from both sides and broke the tie by limiting polling hours.  As the Plain Dealer editorial board correctly points out this will only make it harder to vote in Cuyahoga County.  Husted keeps saying that he wants voting in Ohio to be consistent for people in Butler, Ashtabula and Cleveland, but that is not how the system works.  If he wanted it to be fair for all those different communities he would allow a voter to vote anywhere in the county, or introduce a county or statewide ballot only.  He would deploy staff based on the same number per capita so that there is no wait in Akron or Holmes County, and he would have the state pick up the cost of running an election instead of requiring each county to pay that expense. 

The 10 largest counties are not like the rest of the state in that we have a far larger population who will vote.  We need extended hours to serve the population.  We don't want long lines, and we don't want people showing up and looking at the line and turning around and leaving.  There are so many people who cannot get off work to go downtown and vote.  Those workers who serve the Board members and Husted his coffee in the morning do not have the luxury of going downtown during normal business hours to vote.  Also, from our lawsuit over provisional ballots and identification, I can definitively say that there are many people who will only vote in person no matter how easy it is to vote by mail.  Many do not feel that they actually voted unless they go to a polling place and cast a vote in person.  Some have the mistaken impression that mailed in ballots are second class ballots that do not get counted until later.  So, Husted reducing early voting hours by claiming that voters will be able to vote by mail is a specious argument. 

Finally, why aren't there any independents on the Board of Elections?  Why is it divided 2 for Democrats and 2 for the Repulicans with the tie breaking vote by another politically biased Secretary of State?  This is also a flaw in the proposed change in how we draw district lines which most likely be on the November ballot.  It gives too much power to the two parties.  The Board of Elections should have one or two independent members who are not members of a political party and have not voted in a primary election for only one party for the past 7 years.  These members could be picked by bipartisan members of the judiciary. 

Be sure and check out our update on our victory over Jon Husted last week here. 

Updates:

Check out the post on the rally held on July 16, 2012

Obama Administration intervenes on the early voting on the last weekend before election day.