Archive for August, 2012

Democrats Applaud Decision of Federal Court to Restore the Last 3 Days of Early Voting to All

Today, a federal court decided that the GOP legislature violated equal protection of the laws by cutting off the final three days of early voting for some but not all voters.  The judge found that it was in the public interest to restore the last three days of early voting and to treat all voters equally.  The decision emphasized all parties’ strong interest in protecting active duty military voting rights. Here is what Democrats had to say:

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish released the following statement:

“Today’s decision reinstates fairness for Ohio’s busy working voters.  Weekend voting has been a success in Ohio and helped us recover from the failed election in 2004 when long lines caused tens of thousands of voters to leave the polls without casting a ballot.  Some 93,000 voters came out to vote on the final 3 days before the election in 2008 and the court has refused to allow these days to be cut off by partisan legislative trickery.”

Democratic Whip  Tracy Maxwell Heard released the following statement in response to the ruling:

“This is what fairness looks like.  Excellent decision by the court.  This will reduce confusion and increase access.  That’s how a democratic elections process works.”

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde released the following statement in response to the ruling:

“The last three days of early voting are the three busiest, and it is a huge victory for all Ohio voters that these important voting days have been restored. First the Republicans tried to take them away in House Bill 194, but Ohioans fought back and put that legislation to referendum. Then the Republicans cemented the vote suppressing change by again inserting the language into SB 295.  Well, Ohio voters shouldn’t have to stand for the GOP’s tricks any longer.  Thank goodness for this ruling which protects the right to vote for all Ohioans on these 3 busiest days.”

State Rep. Fedor issued the following statement:

“More than 300,000 people signed the petition to keep the final weekend of voting that helped alleviate pressure on the polls after the long lines of 2004.  The Republicans tried to override the voters by reenacting the early voting cuts and then pulling the referendum from the ballot.  Today, the court rightly restored full early voting rights to all Ohioans, including veterans, helping to ensure that we will not return to the 3 and 4-hour lines of 2004.” 

State Rep. Alicia Reece released the following statement:

“Once again, federal courts have issued a ruling to create a balanced voting system in Ohio. I would urge Secretary of State Husted not to appeal the decision and to comply with the orders of the court which will ensure all Ohio voters have equal opportunities to get to the polls and have their voices heard.”

State Rep. Michael Stinziano released the following in response to the ruling:

“I applaud Judge Economus’ decision in the federal court case involving the restriction of voting hours. This is a win for the voters of Ohio and I’m pleased that the judge moved to restore voting rights to all Ohioans so that they can have every opportunity to cast their ballot when it is convenient for them including the last few days before Election Day when unplanned conflicts can arise.  As the former Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, I have seen and experienced firsthand the importance of an efficient early voting period.  In 2008, roughly 93,000 voters appeared at their early vote center during the last three days of early voting prior to Election Day. Unfortunately, instead of building on this success and a desire for a smooth election day, there are individuals who prefer the long election lines encountered in 2000 and 2004 and are fighting to limit voting rights instead of expanding them.”

State Rep. Sandra Williams released the following statement:

“Judge Economous’ injunction correctly pointed out that that there was no compelling reason for the Ohio Secretary of State to prohibit county boards of elections from allowing early voting for the three days before election day, especially when most county boards were open for early voting during those times in 2006, 2008, and 2010.   Reversing Secretary Husted’s decision will level the playing field as some 93,000 Ohioans took advantage of early voting to avoid long lines in 2008. The people of this state are well-served by having more time to vote, rather than fewer days and shorter hours to cast a ballot.”

Leader Budish Statement on Recommendation to Fire BOE Members Who Supported Weekend Voting

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) released the following statement upon the recommendation by a hearing examiner for Secretary of State Jon Husted that Montgomery County Elections Board members Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr. be fired for supporting expanded weekend early voting hours. The two board members came under fire when they refused to support limiting the previously agreed to early voting hours for Montgomery County following a statewide directive by Secretary Husted.

“I urge Secretary Husted to do the right thing and allow these men to continue to serve on the board of elections. Voting is our most fundamental right and Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie are standing up and fighting to protect that right. It is time for Secretary Husted to put partisan politics aside, protect the voting rights of Ohioans, and do what is best for the voters of Montgomery County and the state, and that is to expand early in-person voting hours to weekends.”

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Reps. Clyde and Reece Urge Sec. Husted Not to Appeal Court Order to Count Votes

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) are calling on Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to accept a federal court order to stop needlessly throwing out provisional ballots and disenfranchising voters.

“This court order is a simple solution to a shameful problem.  If followed, thousands of Ohioans will have their vote counted this fall instead of having it thrown out, tossed on a heap of rejected provisional ballots,” Rep. Clyde said.

Reece and Clyde sent a letter to Husted explaining that Ohio is among the leading states for disenfranchising voters with provisional ballots and that there is a huge disparity in counting votes from county to county.  Voters in larger counties with higher percentages of African-American voters saw higher rates of ballot rejection in 2008.

“Often the problem is the poll worker has made an error, or it is as simple as a voter is confused by being in the right polling location, but at the wrong table. These votes were cast provisionally and often went uncounted.  Finally, Ohio will start using common sense in counting votes,” Rep. Reece said.

Husted has sued multiple times to stop the courts from ordering that these provisional votes are counted. There is a provisional ballot crisis in Ohio and the federal court has ordered a solution that is easy to implement.

Secretary Husted and Republican lawmakers have for years resisted Democrats’ efforts to fix this problem legislatively.  They instead acted to make the problem worse by advocating for and passing legislation that would have created more reasons to throw out provisional ballots and let poll workers abandon their duty to direct voters to the correct precinct. 

See the letter below: 

Secretary of State Jon Husted
180 E. Broad Street, 16th floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Dear Secretary Husted, 

Yesterday, a federal court judge again ruled that Ohio’s provisional ballot counting process is unconstitutional and has ordered you to require Boards of Election not to let poll worker error stand in the way of counting valid votes.  We write to ask that you not waste taxpayer dollars appealing this common-sense ruling. This ruling will bring real fairness and uniformity to provisional vote counting.

The federal court is finally addressing a serious problem with Ohio elections.  In 2008, Ohio threw out 39,989 provisional ballots.  According to data from your website and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Ohio ranked in the top seven states in the country for rejected provisional ballots compared with total ballots cast.  In 2008, one in every 145 ballots cast in Ohio was thrown out due to provisional ballot problems.  This must end.

Worse, the chance that your ballot is thrown out for a provisional ballot problem is higher in counties with larger African-American populations.   The numbers don’t lie. In 2008 in Cuyahoga County, 1 of every 91 ballots was thrown out for provisional ballot problems, whereas in Pike County, only 1 in 1,285 was rejected for the same reason.  In Franklin County, 1 in 110 ballots were rejected for provisional ballot problems, three times higher than the rate of Delaware County where 1 in 333 ballots were rejected.  In Hamilton County, 1 of every 109 ballots were rejected, twice the rate of Warren County where 1 in 209 ballots were rejected for provisional ballot problems.  That is not uniform.  This ruling will reduce this disparity. 

You recently announced that voters can now change their address online by the registration deadline of October 9, 2012.  While that is a step in the right direction, voters will still show up on Election Day needing to change their address as Ohio law allows.  We will still have tens of thousands of provisional ballots cast as in past elections. 

The court has decided that Ohio must sew up the gaping hole in our voting safety net.  We urge you to accept the court’s decision, not to appeal it, and to start implementing the fair and common-sense solution that will enable all eligible voters to have their voices heard in Ohio’s elections.  The presidential election is only a few months away, so this is no time for uncertainty.  You have the opportunity to preside over the most successful election in recent history if you stop fighting the counting of votes. 

Respectfully,

Kathleen Clyde
State Representative                                                              
House District 68

Alicia Reece
State Representative
House District 33

 

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Board of Rejection: Husted Directive Creates Disparity Not Uniformity

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COLUMBUS – House lawmakers today challenged Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive to force uniform voting hours on counties with vastly different populations.  Using data from previous elections, legislative leaders illustrated how uniform voting hours in all 88 counties creates disparity among voters not uniformity, and how this directive is likely to give greater access to voters in Republican-leaning counties.

“Forcing counties with vastly different populations to vote in the same amount of time, in one single location inherently creates unfairness,” said House Minority Leader Armond Budish. “Setting uniform hours treats all county boards equally, but it treats voters unequally.  Secretary Husted’s edicts are likely to bring back long lines, particularly in urban counties.”

The data shows for example that counties like Cuyahoga and Franklin each had over 50,000 in-person early voters while other counties like Jackson and Paulding had barely 1,000.  In a sampling of 24 counties, the data also shows that before these sharp limits in voting hours, four of the larger counties had wait times between one and six hours while smaller counties reported no significant wait times.

“The data shows that because of Secretary Husted’s directive, it is much more likely that a Democratic voter will have to wait in line to cast a ballot in person before Election Day and a Republican voter will not,” said State Rep. Tracy Heard.  “Secretary Husted has tied the hands of local elections officials in a way that favors smaller, Republican counties and he is falsely claiming that this is about fairness.”

 Rep. Alicia Reece added, “The GOP has revealed their true intentions.  Statistics show that African-American voters strongly embraced in-person early voting in 2008 and the GOP has been out to cut these opportunities ever since. The fact is, under the guise of uniformity, Republicans are creating disparity.”

 Rep. Reece refers to comments by Doug Preisse, Republican member of the Franklin County Board of Elections and close friend to Gov. Kasich, who said, ‘…we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter turnout machine.’”

 “This fake uniformity could lead not only to longer lines for early voting in some counties but to longer lines on Election Day as well.  Counties have made huge cuts to their Election Day operations because they’ve become reliant on extended early voting options that have worked well for them in the past,” said Rep. Kathleen Clyde.  “After 2008, Summit County cut its precincts by 37 percent, Hamilton by 23 percent, Cuyahoga by 26 percent, and Montgomery County by 34 percent.  Now their extended voting hours are being cut, too.  These drastic cuts to early voting could funnel more voters to fewer precincts on Election Day, especially in larger counties, creating huge disparities in voter access.  Courts have said that the Constitution does not require this race to the bottom just to create the illusion of uniformity.”

 Montgomery County Democratic Board of Elections members were suspended and may be fired for voting to go ahead with weekend voting hours that the county had planned before Husted issued his directive on uniform weekday hours.  Mahoning County Commissioners voted yesterday to open their early voting center on weekends though it’s unclear whether the Board will hold voting there.

 House Democrats released a chart illustrating how uniform voting hours create disparities in voting access when applied to counties with vastly different populations.  Drawing on data from NOVA, the chart shows the variance of in-person early voters in six counties – Jackson (933), Columbiana (1,897), Fairfield (4,246), Lake (10,194), Montgomery (28,000) and Cuyahoga (54,325) – and how uniform voting hours will impact those counties differently.

 Leader Budish concluded, “Secretary Husted needs to treat voters, not election boards, uniformly and fairly. His current position is likely to result in long lines, and long lines are likely to result in voter suppression.  He should stop bullying Board of Elections members who know what works for their communities, and he needs to stop standing in the way of weekend early voting.  I urge him to modify his directive to allow weekend in-person early voting.” 

State Rep. Alicia Reece’s Statement on Secretary Husted’s Decision to Cancel Early Voting on Weekends

State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) released the following statement in response to Secretary Husted’s announcement that he is canceling all weekend early voting. At least 21 counties had agreed to hold early voting hours on weekends, and several large counties had been denied extended evening and weekend early voting hours by Secretary Husted’s tie breaking decisions. 

“I am pleased that Secretary of State Husted finally heard the cry of citizens across the state asking for extended early voting hours along with equal access to polls. However, his directive falls short in establishing weekend hours which provided some of the busiest times for voter participation in past years.”

Representative Reece is also calling for action in the State House on her legislation to standardize the counting of provisional ballots across the state. 

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Leader Budish and Rep. Williams Statement on Secretary Husted’s Decision to Cancel Early Voting on Weekends

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish (D- Beachwood) and State Rep. Sandra Williams (D- Cleveland) released the following joint statement in response to Secretary Husted’s press conference announcing he will issue a directive canceling early voting during weekend hours. At least 21 counties have weekend early voting hours that will be cancelled, while nearly every urban county has also been denied extended early voting hours in tie-breaking decisions cast by Secretary Husted.

“Voting is one of the most basic rights of our democracy, yet sadly this right has been under constant attack by Republicans out for partisan gain.  In prior elections, thousands of Ohioans have taken advantage of early voting hours and Secretary Husted’s directive works against hardworking Ohioans who have difficulty taking time off from their jobs, making it harder for them to exercise their right to vote.  We are disappointed in the Secretary’s decision to carry out deceptive tactics being used across the nation to disenfranchise minorities, senior citizens, students, and lower income voters in this crucial election year.

“We encourage all of those who may have difficulty getting out to vote without these crucial weekend hours to vote absentee, and ensure their voice is heard.”

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Representative Alicia Reece Urges Board of Elections to Extend Early Voting Hours

Columbus—State Representative Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) in a letter sent earlier this week has urged the Hamilton County Board of Elections to extend early voting hours for Hamilton County; this issue is up for review in their meeting on August 16th at 9:00 AM. Hamilton County had extended voting hours for the 2008 Presidential election and the 2010 gubernatorial election. Rep. Reece is asking that this practice be continued.

“Several heavy Republican populated counties have already voted to extend their hours.  Why wouldn’t Hamilton County do the same?  Many working people need these extended hours so they can exercise their right to vote. This process has worked in the past; why change now!  Let’s not disenfranchise the voters of Hamilton,” says Rep. Reece.

Representative Reece is also calling for action in the State House on her legislation to standardize the counting of provisional ballots across the state.

The full text of the letter can be seen below:

Chairman Timothy Burke

Hamilton County Board of Elections

824 Broadway

Cincinnati, Ohio 45202-1345

August 13, 2012

Dear Chairman Burke,

We are once again approaching a historic election this November in which the eyes of the nation and the world will be on Ohio and Hamilton County.  For the past several years, including a Presidential election in 2008 and a gubernatorial election in 2010, our county board of elections provided extended early voting hours to citizens eligible to vote.  This allowed for higher rates of enfranchisement, far shorter lines on Election Day and a more efficiently run elections process.   I am writing to urge you to follow this common sense precedent and vote to allow extended early voting hours in Hamilton County for the 2012 election. 

According to statistics kept by your Board staff, nearly 9,000 Hamilton County residents voted at the Board of Elections during extended evening and weekend hours in the 2008 election.  Clearly, extended voting hours are popular with voters and work for their busy schedules. 

Our Secretary of State Jon Husted has advocated for a uniform, one-size-fits-all approach to early voting and has used his authority to quash any attempt at providing extended early voting hours in every corner of the state.  However, if given the opportunity to do so in Hamilton County this year, his logic would fail miserably.  Neighboring Warren County’s Board of Elections has already voted to extend early voting hours to its citizens.  If Hamilton County fails to do the same, citizens in Warren County who live in the 1st Congressional district would be given more access to the polls than those 1st district voters who reside in Hamilton County.  Given that Hamilton County’s population is far larger than Warren County’s, thus justifying a more urgent need for extended early voting hours in the more populous county, it again proves that the Secretary of State’s logic in breaking tie votes on this matter is simply faulty.  One size does not fit all and this misguided attempt to achieve uniformity is achieving only disparity. 

I urge you to make a common sense decision to maintain the early voting hours that we had in 2008.  I implore you to do the right thing for Hamilton County.  Please vote to extend early voting hours for the citizens of our county.

 

Sincerely,

 Alicia Reece

State Representative-33rd District

 


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