Ohio Republican Radicalism, Blatant Efforts To Suppress Voting Rights, May Change State Election Balance

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.

 

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7 comments to Ohio Republican Radicalism, Blatant Efforts To Suppress Voting Rights, May Change State Election Balance

  • Czar Kashitch I couldn’t even crack 50% of the pitiful number of votes cast in 2010, but he thought he’d been given Divine power. And, like most stupid people, that power went right to his pathetically empty head.

    It must be remembered that the Klanbagger faction of the right wing embraces stupidity, and this is what you get when you allow people who embrace stupidity to make your choices for you.

  • Rick

    Jolly Roger is a hatemonger who wants to kill Republicans. (See, both sides can engage in ad hominem attacks.) Besides, he’s ugly.

    Now to the substantive stuff. A tax reduction law is called “anti-progressive.” I.e., it isn’t marxist redistribution.

    I have been voting for years and never had a problem determining where I should votes. If people are too stupid to figure out where to vote, maybe we shouldn’t count their votes.

  • Stan Hirtle

    When there are 3 or 4 precincts in one polling place and the poll workers do not or are not allowed to direct you properly, I think it’s more the system’s fault than yours.

  • Bryan

    Mike – It’s really disappointing that you so easily buy into and repeat the liberal talking points without doing your own research. Your statement below, is completely false:

    “HB194 …most outrageously, prohibits poll workers from helping voters to find their correct precinct/”

    According to the source, http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/analyses129/11-hb194-129.pdf, page 20, “Permits, instead of requires, an election official to direct a voter who is in the wrong precinct to the voter’s correct precinct”

    I can’t explain the change in wording, but either way, it is a far cry from “prohibit”. Ask any pollworker, it is MUCH MUCH less work to direct someone to the correct precinct than allowing them to vote at an incorrect location. Think 2 minutes instead of 15-20 minutes and a bunch of paperwork.

    If it is indeed pollworker error, count the vote. However, voters demanding to vote in the wrong location should not be counted. This happens often enough that pollworkers are instructed to inform them that they are in the wrong location and their vote will no count before giving them a provisional ballot. Should we count those? If voters aren’t smart enough to find their correct precinct or smart enough to listen to a pollworker directing them to the correct location, I’m not sure I would want that person voting regardless of political affiliation.

    If you would like to take the pollworker training yourself, it’s available to the public on the secretary of state webpage. http://www.ohioelectionstraining.sos.state.oh.us/ It’s quite interesting.

  • Eric

    What is Ms Gentry’s position on “citizenship suppression” (if I may give a name to Justice O’Connor’s concern):
    “Equally troubling, we face a widening civic achievement gap. Hispanic and African–American students are twice as likely as their white counterparts to lack civic knowledge and skills, while low–income students score significantly lower than middle– and upper–income students. In other words, our schools’ failure when it comes to civic education is especially stark in communities most in need of civic engagement.
    “If we hope to sustain American democracy, we need to treat civic learning as on a par with other academic subjects. To participate fully in our democracy, students need to understand our government, our history, and our laws. They need to appreciate the skills democracy imposes on us — consensus building, compromise, civility, and rational discourse — and how they can be applied to the problems confronted by their communities and our nation as a whole. Restoring this civic mission of schools will require a concerted effort in school districts, at statehouses, and by the federal government.”

  • Mike Bock

    Bryan, thanks for pointing me to the correct information, via the state analysis of HB194. I should have looked at the state analysis before posting my article. You are correct that I did not do sufficient research, but relied on summary statements that turned out to be incorrect. For one, I am surprised that the Ohio ACLU site was incorrect. If I had searched further, I would have found the Ohio Democratic Party had the correct information, so it is not fair to imply that all liberal leaning sites were incorrect.

    HB194 relieves poll workers from any responsibility for error and seems to be an attempt to make a change in Ohio law as a response to the Hunter v Hamilton County Board of Elections case. But, this effort seems wasted because, according to Judge Dlott, Ohio’s whole “wrong precinct” law should be deemed unconstitutional.

    Dlott wrote: “Ohio has created a system in which state actors (poll workers) are given the ultimate responsibility of directing voters to the right location to vote.  Yet, the state law penalizes the voter when a poll worker directs the voter to the wrong precinct, and the penalty, disenfranchisement, is a harsh one indeed.”

    HB194 doesn’t change the fact that Ohio’s “wrong precinct” laws are unfair and probably unconstitutional. The central question is: why does Ohio have a system where thousands of votes each year are discarded on the basis of meaningless technicalities?

    Relieving poll-workers from any responsibility for error seems a very bad idea, because, even in the present system where poll workers have that responsibility, there, evidently, already is a lot of error. As part of this extended Hunter v Hamilton County Board of Elections case, the poll workers involved were questioned as reported in this AmericanLawyer.com article: “As evidence of poll-worker error, Plaintiffs pointed to the fact that the approximately 900 poll workers who were questioned, either under oath or by questionnaire, reported that no voter had refused to move to the correct precinct table when instructed. And because Ohio law requires poll workers to inform voters if they are in the wrong precinct and to direct them to the correct precinct, Hunter argued that votes cast in the correct location but wrong precinct must have been miscast “because the poll worker believed that the voter was in the correct precinct.”

    Poll worker error, alone, would not have been sufficient cause for Judge Dlott to make her ruling. Had the Hamilton Board of Elections been consistent in following Ohio law — “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” — Hunter, evidently, would not have had any legal standing. The legal problem for the Hamilton County Board of Elections centered on the fact that the four members of the board (2 Republicans and 2 Democrats) decided to count 27 ballots that had error as a result, not of precinct poll workers, but because of error of workers at the Board of Elections itself — but not to count 300 ballots that were flawed because of obvious precinct poll worker error (the voter was at the right poll location, but at the wrong precinct table.) It was this arbitrary decision of the Hamilton Board to pick and choose which flawed ballots to count, as I understand it, that gave Hunter a case because, according to the constitution, citizens have the right to equal protection.

    We find the truth via a community where honest dialogue is practiced. Thanks again for your correction.

    Eric, as the campaign goes on, I’m sure that Caroline will outline in detail her thinking about public education. She is a very bright and thoughtful person you will enjoy conversing with and in the campaign there will be amply opportunities for you, if you want, to dialogue with her. I’ve discussed with Caroline, in general terms, the challenges facing public education, but, as is often the case, I did too much of the talking, and not enough of the listening, so, I don’t want to make statements about those conversations showing my POV and then attributing it to her.

    Yes, public education, in my view, should focus on building the skills for and developing the habit of “consensus building, compromise, civility, and rational discourse,” but, the number one objective of principals and boards of education is to get a good grade in Ohio’s evaluation system. It seems to me, unless we have an evaluation system that aligns itself with the aims of civic education, there seems little chance that schools will put much effort in developing the skills and habits needed to sustain and strengthen our democracy.

     

  • Eric

    … as the campaign goes on, I’m sure that Caroline will outline in detail her thinking about public education …

    What endorsements would Caroline care to make in the Democratic primary for Congress? Do any of those candidates have clear positions on education reform? The difficulty of getting good ideas for civics education from the Kettering Foundation to the Kettering schools?

    The ACLU is accusing the Obama administration of whitewashing human rights abuses–does that include education? Is it acceptable to the county and state Democratic Chairs that their candidates aren’t appropriately informed (or have very little to say) on human rights issues?

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