The wheels of justice grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.
The foundation for justice in a democracy is free and fair elections. Ohio Republican efforts to suppress voting rights, along with the rest of their radical agenda, I’m thinking, shows the gang in Columbus has gone too far and this coming election, even gerrymandered districts may send non-Republicans to the Ohio House and Senate.
Last week federal judge, Susan J. Dlott, in the Hunter v Hamilton County Board of Elections case, ruled in favor of election justice and ordered the Hamilton County Board of Elections to count all of the provisional ballots that were cast in the right location but the wrong precinct for the juvenile court judge race in 2010.The ruling will add over 300 votes to the tally, in a race that where over 200,000 votes were cast. The decision may overturn the results of the election. As it stands now, before these additional votes are counted, Republican John Williams has 23 votes more than Democrat Tracie Hunter.
Judge Dlott found that the Board violated right to equal protection and due process and rejected all of the defenses posed by the Board in her 93 page opinion. The case was tried over three weeks in July and August of 2011.
Judge Dlott ruled that the Board of Elections violated the voters’ constitutional rights when it decided to count some provisional ballots but discard others based solely on the location of where they were cast. She indicated that that Ohio’s Republican designed “wrong-precinct” law is unconstitutional. Dlott wrote:
“Ohio’s precinct-based voting system that delegates to poll workers the duty to ensure that voters are directed to the correct precinct but which provides that provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct shall not be counted under any circumstance, even where the ballot is miscast due to poll-worker error, is fundamentally unfair and abrogates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law.”
But the court could not find Ohio’s law unconstitutional without an appropriate due process challenge, and as a result of Dlott ruling, such a challenge has now been made to the Ohio Attorney General. At the same time, in response to Dlott’s ruling, the Republicans on the Hamilton County Board of Elections voted to appeal her decision all the way to The Supreme Court.
Every election in Ohio, thousands of perfectly good ballots, mostly from the poor, are trashed because they fail to meet the technical requirements of Ohio Law. Ohio’s crazy election laws, it seems, are designed to unjustly disenfranchise voters.
One reason I am an enthusiastic supporter of Caroline Gentry, the Democratic candidate for the Ohio House in the district where I live, OHD-41, is the fact that, educated as a Yale Law School attorney, she has donated many pro bono hours working for voter protection. Caroline recently received the Lloyd O’Hara Public Interest Law Award. Her citation reads in part:
“Caroline served as lead counsel in Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) v Blackwell, a pro bono case that helped to change and clarify Ohio’s voter-identification requirements for the November 2006 general election dn Ohio’s provisional ballot rules for the November 2008 general election. … Caroline’s work on behalf of disadvantaged people who otherwise might be deprived of their voting rights exemplifies the spirit of Lloyd H. O’Hara who was a champion of the poor and disadvantaged.”
The citation also notes that Caroline helped litigate the enforcement of the NEOCH ruling as part of the Hunter v Hamilton County Board of Elections case, just ruled on by Judge Dlott.
The Republican effort to suppress voting rights may become a big issue in this campaign. The Republican legislation, House Bill 194, screams injustice. Many habitual Republican voters in gerrymandered districts may see the unfair suppression of voting by the 129th Assembly as something that they cannot support.
HB194 limits early voting and, most outrageously, prohibits poll workers from helping voters to find their correct precinct. I know, it sounds so absurd as to be a joke. It’s amazing that the anti-democratic Republican majority has the audacity to so clearly show their hand, and enact a law that prohibits poll workers from helping citizens so their votes can be counted. (Bryan, see comments below, shows that this sentence is incorrect. HB194 does not prohibit poll workers from helping citizens, it relieves them of any responsibility for doing so.)
I’ve not heard a Republican defense of HB194 and, recently , in response to over 300,000 Ohioans signing a petition to put a repeal referendum on the November ballot, Republican Secretary of State, John Husted, urged the Assembly to repeal the legislation saying publicly, to the effect, “Gee, maybe this bill isn’t such a good idea, after all.”
HB194, of course, is just part of the radical Ohio Republican agenda.
The Ohio Republicans in power, traditionally, have been so secure in their “safe” gerrymandered districts that they have felt a license to advance whatever legislation they wanted. Ohio’s 2005 Tax Reduction Law, for example, was anti-progressive, a give away to corporations and the wealthy, and resulted in a $2.6 billion annual revenue shortfall to the state budget.
Under Kasich, this license, this sense of entitlement, to exercise right wing ideology, has been pushed to new levels of arrogance. Taft Republicans, unlike Kasich et al, regardless of their complete control of the state government,
- did not attempt to curtail collective bargaining for public employees,
- nor sell the state prisons and state turnpike,
- nor cut down the trees and drill for oil in the state parks,
- nor take tax money from public local schools and give to religious private schools.
Taft Republicans did not push legislation so “business friendly” as to be dangerously anti-environmental. But Kasich Republicans passed House Bill 231 greatly compromising Lake Erie and its watershed to the point that, amazingly, former Republican governors Bob Taft and George Voinovich protested and pushed Kasich into his first veto. From the Columbus Dispatch:
Kasich was under mounting pressure to veto the bill. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested “potential legal action” on Thursday if Kasich signed it, and The Plain Dealer of Cleveland has editorialized against the measure.
The bill also was opposed by former Republican Govs. Bob Taft and George V. Voinovich, the Ohio Environmental Council, the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, the Alliance for the Great Lakes and past directors of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
But the bill did have the support of business interests – which are typically cozy with Kasich and vice versa – including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which hailed the bill as a jobs-friendly proposal that would provide economic certainty about future water resources from the Great Lakes.
“The liberal environmentalists want to misuse the Great Lakes Compact to place unnecessary and expensive hurdles in front of businesses that will seek to take advantage of northern Ohio’s overly abundant natural resource – freshwater – to relocate or expand their water-use-dependent businesses in northern Ohio,” Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, wrote in a letter to Kasich yesterday.
With the current Republican corporatists, in charge in Columbus, accusing former Republican governors Bob Taft and George Voinovich as being part of a “liberal environmentalist” cabal, certainly many main stream Republican voters are beginning to wake up and realizing that they no longer can support this group.
There is wake up call after wake up call. The most recent are the comments of Judge Dlott that Republican “wrong precinct” legislation is unconstitutional.
The point is, the Ohio Assembly is now controlled by radical party apparatchiks who feel so entitled to their antidemocratic bias they are well outside of the mainstream — shockingly so. The wheels of justice grind very slowly. Common sense must eventually return to Ohio. I’m thinking our democracy will rouse sufficiently this next election, and respond as it should.
- Rejecting Radicalism, Voters in Some Republican Districts May Elect Democrats To Ohio House, February 2nd, 2012
- Moderate Oakwood Democrat Seeks To Replace Radical Republican Jim Butler To Represent OHD-41, November 11th, 2011
- Ohio’s Proposed Voucher Law HB136 — Should Tax Money Be Used To Fund Religious Education?, September 29th, 2011