Forum Center: So goes the nation

By Sarah Sidlow
Illustration: Jed Helmers

With only hours to go before early voting was scheduled to begin in some counties in Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an emergency order effectively postponing it by a week. In short, this cut the early voting days in Ohio from 35 days down to 28. The justification for the ruling was the amount of early voting days in all counties within a given state must be identical. The decision, which was handed down from the highest court in the land, was neatly split, 5-4, down party lines.

In May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of Women Voters filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted after his decision to disallow early voting on Sundays, and push for uniformity in voting times across counties. They claimed Husted was deliberately targeting the poor and African American voters. A federal judge agreed with the plaintiffs and the decision was upheld by the U.S. 6th circuit court of appeals. Husted appealed to the Supreme Court and urged them to side with the new law. The Supreme Court delayed the start of early voting, which was scheduled to begin on Sept. 29. Ohio state law guarantees voters will have the chance to vote 28 days before the election.

Opponents of early voting in Ohio claim the service may simply be unnecessary, due to the availability and convenience of absentee ballots – which, in Ohio, are offered to any qualified voter without an excuse. They further claim Ohio is already one of the most generous states when it comes to early voting, and that perhaps the swing state should take an example from other states in the union, or at least create a uniformity in voting times from county to county. An additional argument against early voting is the worry voters may cast their votes too early, before important events in debates and polling occur in October.

Proponents claim early voting helps avert long lines and aids election administrators in working out the kinks, while allowing voters to do so at a convenient time, when they are not at work or dealing with child-care conflicts. Moreover, available voting times on Sundays allows churches to organize voting groups. Those in favor of extending the available polling times claim that window is critical for specific groups of voters – including those with lower incomes, those in the black community and others who already feel disenfranchised in our political system. In fact, many are pushing for an extension of available early voting times.

While most states have both early and no-excuse absentee balloting, 14 states outside of Ohio do not offer early voting at all.

But Ohio’s role in determining political outcomes is historic. As the saying goes, “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.” Perhaps, then, it is time to examine how this swing state handles the issue of voting.

Reach DCP Editor Sarah Sidlow at Editor@DaytonCityPaper.com

 

Debate Forum Question of the Week:

Was the U.S. Supreme Court correct in their ruling shortening early voting in Ohio from 35 to 28 days? Should early voting exist at all?

 

Debate Right: ‘Voter Fraud’ and the Tooth Fairy

By Marianne Stanley

Larry, Curly, and Mo … they’re not nearly as laughable as the judicial, legislative and executive branches of our government today. This recent early voting flap in Ohio is just one more example of how government works for special interests and not the common man. Isn’t it just a bit ironic almost nothing has moved or gotten done in the past six years due to the intentional and ill-willed obstruction by Republicans of good legislation? Even after the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) became law, Republicans introduced more than 50 bills trying to kill it, despite the Supreme Court finding it constitutional and despite the fact that Americans were inexcusably suffering and dying for want of basic medical care. That’s not all that’s haywire. Look around. Legalized thugs called SWAT teams are bursting into homes, confiscating money and weapons in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s supposed protection against warrantless searches and seizures. Police are authorized to pull over drivers with unpaid parking or traffic tickets and tow their cars away on the spot, often leaving them standing on the sidewalk in a strange locale. The First Amendment is toast if you’re a peace activist or war protestor, yet somehow it still protects mobs of fully armed extremists as they flaunt their “right to bear arms.” Police throw pregnant women to the ground on their bellies, tase or pepper spray citizens without just cause and have gleefully discovered they can literally get away with murder as long as the victim is a minority, poor or powerless.  

Now we’re seeing here in Ohio that while the wheels of justice grind ever-so-slowly for important common-man issues like an adequate working wage, they fly blindingly fast when it comes to the tiniest little wants of the rich and powerful. Witness our Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on something as small as allowing a little more time for early voting. Winning, regardless of voter will, is all that matters to them. Anything goes: rigging voting machines, gerrymandering voting districts and now tightening voting rules to make it harder for the masses to vote. Remember when the Diebold voting machine CEO Wally O’Dell actually said, “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President (George W.) next year.”? Nothing is too obscene, too down and dirty, too god-awful if the outcome is another Republican in office to help bring down our country. And bringing down the country they are, from robbing the middle and lower classes of their livelihoods to the militarization of our police departments that target and arrest only those who can’t fight back, providing even greater profits to our privatized prisons while destroying families and communities. 

How can anyone who isn’t in the tippy-tippy-top echelon of income even contemplate voting Republican when they see only rich, white guys benefit from their policies? Republicans keep blocking legislation that would allow those drowning in student loan debt to refinance; they’re pushing through legislation allowing multiple hazards to our health and our very world, from fracking to loading our Earth with toxic chemicals, killing off our bee population and sickening us with GMOs and pesticide-laced “food,” and they’re ruthlessly squeezing American women ever and ever tighter in their sadistic clutch, denying them the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, Equal Pay Act and access to whatever reproductive choices they want.

Early voting should facilitate voting … but not here. Here, there is only one voting site in each county with voter-unfriendly hours: 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday for the first two weeks, Saturdays from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. added the last two weeks, and just 1–5 p.m. on the one Sunday that final week. Notice there are no evening hours at all. These restricted hours and locations effectively rule out many, if not all, of the working poor. And Ohio is already one of the 10 worst gerrymandered states, causing Democrats to be underrepresented in the House by 18 seats, according to the Gerrymander Index Scores of the 113th Congress. Additionally, “voter fraud” is a myth. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, “most claims of voter fraud are baseless,” but “fraud” serves as a convenient hysteria-inducer to make identification laws strict enough they can disenfranchise large numbers of valid voters. Another way to push thousands out of the voting system is to make former misdemeanors into felonies so that thousands more, mostly minorities, are unable to cast a ballot.

If we really want our citizens to vote, why don’t we do what other countries do? Switzerland, for example, simply sends a card to every registered voter they present at their polling place. Australia, England, Denmark and New Zealand don’t require any I.D. to vote while Italy, Belgium, Spain, Israel, France and Greece give national I.D. cards to their citizens, which entitle them to vote. Only in the U.S. do we make it ever-and-always increasingly difficult to vote. This is no accident, and it is certainly not about “fraud.” It is purely and simply a way to make voting tougher for those most likely to vote Democrat since the Democratic Party has, by and large, been the party of the people in all our multicultural glory. But we continue to be arrogantly and gleefully ignored by a callous, self-righteous and flat-out UN-American cadre of Republican CEOs and politicians. The sound of the thinking populace stampeding away from that no-longer-Grand-Old-Party should be absolutely deafening by now.

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Debate Right: Fast-food voting already a staple in Ohio

By Rob Scott

Nothing is more vital in the United States than a citizen’s right to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court has said this over generations, and struck down many governmental actions to counter that right. From gerrymandered political districts to poll taxes, the High Court has underlined any American’s right to cast their ballot through numerous precedential rulings.

Wars have been fought regarding these rights. Remember “Taxation Without Representation” during the study of the American Revolutionary War? Or the issues surrounding the American Civil War or the multiple strides made during the Civil Rights Era?

At the start of our nation, only white land-owning males could vote. Obviously, the United States has come a long way in 200 years.

With time comes evolution. As a society, Americans demand convenience in our fast-food culture. Many believe voting should be made extremely easy and needs to be expanded beyond practical ability. Some think online voting should begin in our technologically advanced nation.

As with anything, there are costs, practicality and responsibility to consider when it comes to voting. I personally voted the very first chance I had after turning 18 years old, which was the 2000 election. Since, I’m pretty sure I have voted in every single election, including the local off-year elections.

However, I’m a rare voter and American. A little over half the U.S. population is registered to vote and, out of those, depending on the election year, fewer still actually turn out to vote. I truly wish this was not the case and more Americans did take their civic responsibilities seriously.

In 2008, when the Democrats controlled most of the statewide offices in Ohio, they decided to expand the early voting days in Ohio. Before you think this is for an altruistic reason, the extensions were for the Obama presidential election year. The focus by Democrat and then-Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner was urban counties – she essentially ignored rural counties. The costs to Ohio and local counties have been dramatic.

Since, Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has attempted to bring sense to the entire election process in Ohio. Husted directed all 88 counties in Ohio to have uniform hours, instead of cherry-picking specific ones for political purposes.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio had brought the lawsuit in representing several black churches and the state’s chapters of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters. The groups challenged a directive from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, setting uniform early voting times and restricted weekend and evening hours. The plaintiffs also wanted to overturn a GOP-backed state law that eliminated so-called golden week, a time when people could both register to vote and cast ballots. Without those days, early voting would typically start 28 or 29 days before Election Day, instead of the previous 35-day window.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Federal District Court Judge’s order requiring Ohio to have extended voting hours taking the 28 days under Ohio law to 35 days. Also included were late and weekend hours.

In a 5-4 decision, the High Court disagreed with the lower court’s order. Now, due to the decision, Ohio will have early voting starting 28 days before the general election. This is what Secretary Husted had wanted across all 88 counties in Ohio in order to provide equality and uniformity throughout the Buckeye state.

Secretary Husted said the ruling, “…validates what I have long said, elections in Ohio should be run by the same rules in every county and Ohioans should have the right to make those rules through their elected representatives. We are gratified the United States Supreme Court has allowed Ohio’s early voting law to stand.”

Husted continued, “I plan to implement state law and the voting schedule established by Democrats and Republicans at the local level, meaning Ohioans will have 28 days of early voting, including two Saturdays and a Sunday. Ohioans can have confidence it remains easy to vote and hard to cheat in our state.”

Ultimately, voting is both a right and a responsibility. Millions of men and women have died for our rights. Whenever I vote, I think of my grandfather who was 19 in the U.S. Army on the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach in France. I have made voting a priority in my life because I view it as something so many have sacrificed for me to have.

Today, unlike years ago, Ohioans can vote via absentee for any reason. In the past, a voter would need a compelling reason to be able to vote an absentee ballot. Also, early in-person voting is available at the local Board of Elections office or another designated area.

However, being responsible requires me to vote. Meaning, if voting is a priority, in Ohio I can vote via absentee and in person early voting 28 days before the election. Or I could vote like all Americans have for over 200 years … on Election Day. The U.S. Supreme Court voted right on this one. We already have fast-food voting.

Rob Scott is a general practice attorney at Oldham & Deitering, LLC. Scott is a Kettering City Councilman, founder of the Dayton Tea Party, member of the Dayton Masonic Lodge and Kettering Rotary. He can be contacted at rob@oldhamdeitering.com or www.gemcitylaw.com.

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Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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