COLUMBUS- Today, Ohio Senate and House Democratic leadership and Democratic members called for Gov. Kasich to veto two controversial voter suppression bills, Senate Bills 205 and 238. The bills received approval from the legislature along party lines on Wednesday.
S.B. 238 eliminates “Golden Week,” when a voter can register and cast a ballot on the same day, by reducing early voting days. S.B. 205 makes further cuts to absentee voting and creates the harshest ballot rejection rule in the country.
A copy of the letter is attached and can be seen below:
February 20, 2014
Governor John Kasich
77 S. High St., 31st Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
Dear Governor Kasich,
We urge you to veto Am. S. B. 238 and Sub. S. B. 205 which the House passed and the Senate concurred last night after a contentious and abbreviated debate about the impacts that these bills will have on Ohio voters.
Our state’s objective should be to increase and improve Ohioans’ access to the ballot box. Instead, these proposed law changes will make it harder for Ohioans to vote by creating barriers and limiting opportunities to exercise their fundamental right.
Am. S. B. 238 will cut Ohio’s only period of same day registration, a measure that is one of the only proven ways to increase voter participation. Roughly 59,000 people used this week of voting in 2012. The bill also unnecessarily cuts a week from the beginning of mail absentee voting. There is no difference in the verification process between a voter who registers and votes on the 31st day before the election and a voter who registers on the 31st day and votes on the 29th day before an election. Both ballots are not counted until the voter’s registration is verified. Consequently, these proposed restrictions are without reason or necessity.
Further, the impact of Am. S. B. 238’s cuts to early voting will fall disproportionately on women, low-income voters, minority voters and elderly voters. During the 2012 and 2008 elections in Cuyahoga County, African American voters were 20 times more likely than white voters to utilize in-person early voting and 75 percent of in person early voters were African American. House Democratic members had amendments prepared to soften this unfair impact. However, in a rarely-used and extraordinarily offensive procedural move, floor debate on this bill was abruptly ended and these amendments were never given the opportunity for an up or down vote.
Sub. S. B. 205 would similarly cut down on early voting by making mail voting less accessible. Mailing absentee ballot applications would be prohibited except by the Secretary of State and then only when the General Assembly makes an appropriation for it. This puts the General Assembly in the role of administering elections and injects partisanship into what should be nonpartisan decisions about expanding access for voters. Prepayment of postage on voting materials would also be prohibited, even though this is an easy and commonly used way to ensure that ballots are not lost in the mail or delayed in their arrival at the boards of elections.
Finally, Sub. S. B. 205 requires non-essential information on ballot paperwork for a ballot to count, despite the fact that the Civil Rights Act prohibits us from rejecting ballots over minor paperwork errors. This bill will exacerbate Ohio’s biggest problem – throwing out people’s votes. Over 13,000 absentee ballots were thrown out in 2012 and that number will undoubtedly grow because of this bill.
The last stop on this voter suppression train that is barreling through Ohio is your desk, Governor Kasich. We urge you to do the right thing and stop this blatant partisan attack on voting rights by vetoing Am. S. B. 238 and vetoing Sub. S. B. 205. Our goals should be to increase access to voting, not create barriers and limit opportunities for Ohioans to exercise their sacred right to vote.
Thank you for your consideration on this very serious matter.
House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard
26th House District
Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni
33rd Senate District
House Assistant Democratic Leader Debbie Phillips
96th House District
Senate Assistant Minority Leader Charleta B. Tavares
15th Senate District
House Democratic Whip Michael Ashford
44th House District
Senate Minority Whip Edna Brown
11th Senate District
House Assistant Democratic Whip Dan Ramos
56th House District
Senate Assistant Whip Lou Gentile
30th Senate District
State Senator Nina Turner
25th Senate District
State Representative Ronald V. Gerberry
59th House District
State Representative Kathleen Clyde
75th House District