September 3, 2014
With Labor Day behind us, thoughts turn to getting ready for fall and the election season. Since 2010, majority Republicans in the Ohio Legislature and in statewide office have been hard at work coming up with ways to limit access to the polls and curtail voting rights. If nothing else, frequently changing guidelines and deadlines for voting have created confusion.
Here are several important things you need to know.
Applications to vote by mail – also known as absentee voting – will be mailed automatically to all registered voters in Ohio for the November 4th election. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections eased congestion at the polls considerably in 2010 and 2012 by mailing postage paid applications to all of its registered voters. But then, the Ohio Legislature stripped the authority from local boards to send postage-paid applications. They enacted a law that lets only the state determine whether to offer this sensible voting solution and only if it’s done statewide. It leaves us at the mercy of state elected officials who can decide one year to offer it and then take it away for the next election cycle. Please be aware that even though registered voters will receive absentee ballot applications automatically, voters themselves are responsible for paying the postage to mail the completed application.
They must also pay for postage to return (mail) a completed ballot. The voting registration period and hours and days for early in-person voting have also been changed for the worse. Here again, a smart and convenient way to increase voter participation has been taken away from Ohioans by the Republican led Ohio General Assembly. Gone is the one week period (known as Golden Week) when same-day registration and voting was offered to Ohioans. Registration for the November 4th General Election now closes on October 6th. It’s no accident that early voting begins on October 7th, one day after the opportunity to register is past. In addition, there will be voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the election but it took a federal court order to restore those voting days after the state tried to take them away as well. I believe voting is the sacred right of every citizen and elected officials should do everything in their power to encourage full participation, not erect barriers that impede access to the polls. I will continue to push hard for passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act. This update to the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) is critically needed, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section Four of the VRA, a key provision that determines which jurisdictions with a history of discrimination are subject to federal oversight and preclearance before changing their voting laws. Thank you, to all who responded to my recent social media poll about the lawsuit led by House Republicans against President Obama. The results are in and 94 percent of you believe the lawsuit “is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars and an attempt to distract the citizens from Republican dysfunction.” Yet, House Republicans have hired a $500-per-hour taxpayer-funded lawyer to pursue this ridiculous litigation. This just goes to show that their priorities are skewed. Instead of working with Democrats to raise the minimum wage, renew unemployment insurance and provide women equal pay for equal work, Republicans are wasting taxpayer money on political stunts. It is time they get serious about investing in Americans’ future and building a stronger middle class. Have a good week everyone.