Ohio Voter Rights Coalition Blog; The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition

Ohioans Win More Early Voting Hours in Settlement Agreement (4/17/2015)

Ohioans have won expanded early voting hours as a result of a settlement reached in the lawsuit brought last year in NAACP v. Husted.  On behalf of several civil rights plaintiffs, the ACLU had challenged state law S.B. 238 (pdf) and Secretary of State directives that have dramatically slashed early voting opportunities in Ohio.  The agreement with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will provide additional evening and weekend voting opportunities in presidential, gubernatorial, and all regular elections beginning after the May 2015 primary and continuing through 2018.

The expanded hours include:

•    For the upcoming presidential general election, an additional Sunday will be added during the third week of voting. Boards of elections will be open from 1 to 5 p.m.
•    For the presidential primary election and general elections, there will be expanded weekday evening hours during the fourth week of voting. Instead of regular business hours, boards of elections now will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
•    For regular municipal elections, primary elections and special elections, hours have been expanded during the fourth week of voting for weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on the Saturday before the election, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
 

Most importantly, Ohio will continue to provide a robust period of early voting that includes flexible evening and weekend hours.  This agreement ensures that voters will be able to vote at the board of elections when it’s convenient and that our elections remain accessible for all citizens.

Here are some articles on this topic:

Husted reaches settlement with Ohio NAACP over early voting Ohio Capitol Blog (4/19/15)
Ohio Secretary of State and civil liberties groups reach an early voting agreement WKSU Kent State University(4/17/15)
Ohio Settles Dispute Over Early Voting System The Wall Street Journal (4/17/15)
Ohio settles civil rights groups' lawsuit over early voting Fox News (4/17/15)
ACLU reaches settlement with Ohio over early voting Jurist (4/17/15)
ACLU, Secretary of State Jon Husted settle federal lawsuit over access to early voting in Ohio Cleveland Plain Dealer (4/17/15)

Another Victory for Voting Rights!

We are happy to report that Ohio's Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger has announced that the funding needed to mail absentee ballot applications to Ohio voters for the 2016 election will be added to the budget bill, H.B. 64.  Thanks to the 700+ people that signed our petition and for those that called and gave testimony to make this possible.

Money to mail voters absentee ballot applications will be added to budget, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger says The Cleveland Plain Dealer (4/16/15)

Money for absentee ballot applications added to proposed state budget The Columbus Dispatch (4/16/15)

Tell Ohio's Speaker of the House to Protect Absentee Voting

Alarmingly, the Ohio House of Representatives revealed on Tuesday that its latest budget proposal did not provide for any funding for a statewide absentee ballot application mailing in 2016.  Now it’s up to Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger to ensure that an amendment is inserted into H.B. 64 that protects absentee voting.
 
During an all-important presidential election year when turnout is at its heaviest, it is absolutely critical that all Ohio voters receive an absentee ballot application.  According to the Secretary of State, in 2012, the first year when all voters statewide received absentee ballot applications, absentee voting reached an all-time high.  Approximately one-third of all statewide votes cast their ballots prior to Election Day, primarily by mail.
 
Failure to provide for the funds for this mailing is particularly troublesome because the legislature prohibited the Secretary of State and local boards of elections from sending out unsolicited absentee applications with passage of SB 205 in 2014.   The legislature stripped local boards’ ability to use an effective elections administration tool – instead the legislature designated itself as the sole gatekeeper for deciding whether all voters will receive absentee ballots applications in any given year.   

If the General Assembly does not authorize the mailings, this inaction will result in a confusing and unnecessary barrier to vote. In a state where elections issues are often contentious, the modest proposal to fund absentee ballot mailings in 2016 won broad support early on from both advocates and elections officials, including the Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio Association of Election Officials, and numerous voter advocacy organizations.  No one testified in opposition to the proposed amendment.  Unless an amendment is made to the budget, voters will not automatically receive an absentee ballot application in 2016, despite being accustomed to receiving one in the mail.
 
House Speaker Rosenberger must fix the budget so that H.B. 64 does not create barriers to the right to vote.  Here is what you can do right now to make your voice heard:
  • Sign our petition now!


Here are some articles on this topic:

Budget doesn’t fund mailing of Ohio absentee-ballot applications, for now The Columbus Dispatch (4/16/15)
Ohio budget lacks funds to send absentee ballot applications Associated Press (4/15/15)
Absentee voter mailing not paid for in Ohio House budget proposal The Plain Dealer (4/15/15)