Ohio Voter Rights Coalition Blog; The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition

Press Release: Ohioans urge Gov. Kasich to veto new voter-intimidation provision

For Immediate Release 
March 30, 2015

CONTACT: Sandy Theis, ProgressOhio
614-940-0131, sandy@progressohio.org

Voter advocacy organizations are calling on Gov. John Kasich to veto a provision slipped into the transportation budget that requires anyone who registers to vote in Ohio to obtain an Ohio driver’s license and register their car.

More than 4,200 people have signed petitions, made calls and sent emails, endorsing the veto.
“Despite claims to the contrary by Secretary of State Jon Husted and leaders in the House, this provision could discourage voting,” said Ellis Jacobs of the Miami Valley Voter Protection Coalition says. “It imposes a back end requirement on voters and carries a criminal penalty if a newly registered voter does not comply.”

The provision calls for newly registered voters to surrender any out-of-state driver’s license and obtain a license and vehicle registration from in Ohio within 30 days, or face criminal charges. If enacted, Ohio would be just one of four states with criminal penalties for failing to get a driver’s license and in-state vehicle registration. One of them (Arizona) specifically exempts out-of-state students.

Voter advocates said the proposal would force new voters to spend about $75 to comply with the change and would be particularly harmful to college students.
“Out-of-state students live in Ohio, pay to attend college in Ohio, have a principal residence in Ohio, and should be treated as members of the community in which they live,” said Project Vote’s Estelle Rogers. “They should be afforded the same right to vote as others who also live in the state, without having to pay a fee to do so.”

ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis noted that this is the latest effort by legislative Republicans to make changes that would disproportionately make it harder for traditional Democratic voters to go to the polls.

“Barriers to voting should not be based on party ID,’’ Theis said. “In Ohio’s university towns, President Obama had margins higher than other regions of the state. It is well known that college students tend to vote for Democrats.’’

Deidra Reese from the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition commented, “Fortunately the public seems to recognize the old tricks to create barriers, which is why so many groups immediately asked for people to sign the petitions and that so many people are signing on. I know people are sensitive to calling this a back end poll tax but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, generally it’s a duck.”

Supportive Organizations:

The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, Deidra Reese, deidra@statevoices.org
Ohio Conference AAUP, Sara Kilpatrick sara@ocaaup.org
Fair Elections Legal Network, Archita Taylor, ataylor@fairelectionsnetwork.com

Asian Services in Action, Michael Byun, mbyun@asiaohio.org
ProgressOhio, Sandy Theis, sandy.theis@gmail.com
NOVA (Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates), Norman Robbins, nxr@case.edu
Innovation Ohio, Terra Goodnight, goodnight@innovationohio.org
Ohio Student Association, Stuart McIntyre, stuartmc@ohorganizing.org
NAACP Ohio Conference Political Action Committee, Tom Roberts, statesenatortomroberts@yahoo.com
Common Cause Ohio, Catherine Turcer, cturcer@commoncause.org

Tell Governor Kasich to Do the Right Thing for Students

Out-of state students have a constitutionally protected right to register to vote using their campus address in Ohio.  However, under a new proposal in H.B. 53, any person that registers to vote in Ohio would be required to pay upwards of $75 to register their vehicle in this state. 

While the bill is masquerading as an attempt to regulate vehicle registration laws, the true intent is to discourage students from voting.   By forcing out-of-state students to purchase an Ohio driver’s license and vehicle registration, students will effectively have to pay to vote.  Over 116,000 out-of-state students attend Ohio colleges and universities and would be negatively impacted by this bill.  Legislators are betting that students will simply be unable or unwilling to incur the additional expense.

The Senate quickly inserted this this harmful attack on student voting rights last week and the House rushed to pass it with little notice or opportunity for public input.  The bill is now ready to be signed by Governor Kasich and will become law unless the Governor uses his power to line-item veto this harmful provision (update as of 3/27/15).

To call Governor Kasich NOW, click here for a sample script.


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Voting Advocates Urge Legislature Not to Shortchange Voters

Contact: Carrie Davis, League of Women Voters of Ohio

Appropriate necessary funds to ensure a smooth election in 2016

Today, voting advocates called on the Ohio General Assembly to provide voters and election officials with the tools necessary for a smooth 2016 election. "We need to prepare now to make sure Ohio is ready for the next presidential election," said Carrie Davis, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. "If the legislature does not fund essential aspects of election administration, we are setting ourselves up for problems next year."

In all, advocates support three measures that would aid election officials in the administration of high-turnout elections, noting that upgrades would lead to a smoother election operation in 2016. Voting rights advocates support a budget amendment appropriating funding for the mailing of absentee ballot applications, electronic pollbooks for all county Boards of Elections, and online voter registration.

Voting advocates are pleased that Ohio Secretary of State Husted's office has indicated he will be asking for an appropriation to continue sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. In the past, federal funds were used to cover such costs but those funds are no longer available. Voter advocates were deeply concerned that this request was not in the initial budget but are hopeful that the legislature will agree to the Secretary's request.

"The absentee mailing is critical to smooth election administration, because voting patterns have changed," said Ellis Jacobs with the Miami Valley Voter Protection Coalition. "Since 2006 when absentee voting was opened to all voters, upwards of one-third of Ohio voters choose to cast their ballot before Election Day. Voters are accustomed to receiving their absentee application in the mail, and there would likely be confusion, delays, and increased problems if the mailing is not funded."

Last year, the legislature passed SB 205, a bill that prohibits local boards of elections or any government official other than the Secretary of State from sending absentee applications out to all voters. "No one else can pick up this responsibility," said Cathy Johnston, advocacy director of the Coalition on Homelessness & Housing in Ohio. "SB 205 indicated that only the Secretary may send the applications and that can happen only if the legislature appropriates funds. We worry if this doesn't happen, we will see long lines at the polls."

Voter advocates also urge the legislature to make good on a second promise. Last year, the legislature passed SB 109 that created a process for certifying electronic pollbooks, but they stopped short of providing needed funds for purchasing them. "E-pollbooks have numerous benefits, including making it easier to maintain updated and accurate records of voters who cast early ballots, providing poll workers a complete database so they can look up all voters and addresses, and significant cost savings over printed lists," said Peg Rosenfield, Election Specialist with the League. "We urge the legislature to provide the $15 million necessary to purchase electronic pollbooks statewide, so that every county has uniform access to this equipment."

"Online voter registration is a bi-partisan concept whose time has come," said Catherine Turcer with Common Cause Ohio. "It's more secure, convenient and accurate than traditional paper forms, and it will save taxpayer money. With measures pending in both the House and Senate, and with Secretary of State Husted a longtime supporter of the process, it's no surprise online voter registration is getting a lot of attention these days."

"Voter advocates, county election officials, and the Ohio Secretary of State agree that these three important measures will have a lasting positive impact on election administration in Ohio," said Camille Wimbish, Election Administration Director for Ohio Voice, "and we urge the legislature to approve them now."