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Reps. Reece, Sykes call for statewide investigation into voter disenfranchisement issues

Nearly 900 absentee ballots in Summit County tossed due to lack of postmark
November 19, 2015
Democratic Newsroom

State Rep. and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) joined Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today in calling for a statewide investigation following troubling reports that hundreds of Akron voters had their absentee ballots voided because they lacked a postmark.

Under current Ohio law, absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and be received within ten days of the election in order to be counted. Nearly 900 ballots – roughly nine percent of total absentee ballots received by the Summit County Board of Elections – were thrown out for not having a postmark.

“When a voter places their absentee ballot in the mail, they should be able to have confidence that their vote will be counted, not tossed out through no fault of their own,” said Sykes. “Hundreds of Summit County voters – and likely even more across the state – have been disenfranchised this election, and they deserve answers. I call on the secretary of state to launch an investigation immediately.”

Sykes also expressed concerned over whether the state’s election laws adequately reflect the diminishing footprint of the postal service system in Ohio, saying, “the secretary of state is responsible for ensuring our election processes take into account conditions on the ground. This year’s election calls that into question.”

The postmark issues in Akron are just the latest in a string of troubles that have plagued this year’s election. In Hamilton County, voting hours were extended by 90 minutes after poll worker confusion and technical problems with the new e-poll books led to voters being turned away or forced to vote provisionally.

“It is growing clear that Ohio’s voting problems are not contained to a single city or county. Indeed, the problems in Hamilton and Summit Counties may well be just the tip of the iceberg,” said Reece. “Access to the ballot box is our most fundamental right as citizens in a free and open democratic society, and elections officials – from the secretary of state on down – must be adequately prepared come Election Day. With the presidential election just around the corner, all eyes will soon be on Ohio once again. It is imperative that we investigate and resolve these issues as soon as possible.”

Reece is a long-time voting rights advocate and spoke at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

The OLBC is currently holding a Legislative Action Tour across the state to discuss issues important to the African American community, including voting rights and access to the ballot box. On Monday, November 23, 2015 the action tour will stop in Cincinnati from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, 3458 Reading Rd, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229.

The action tour will stop in Akron on Thursday, December 3, 2015 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Alpha Center, 662 Wolf Ledges Parkway, Akron, Ohio 44311