I am a candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council. I write this on Labor Day morning to propose a way to pay tribute to working men and women that may not have occurred to you: sign the petition to put voter suppression bill HB 194 on the ballot for a public referendum in 2012.
HB 194 is part of a wave of voter suppression laws across the country passed this year by newly elected Republican governors and legislatures. It is a difficult bill to describe because of the sheer quantity of voting restrictions included (the bill is more than 250 pages long and affects over 100 existing Ohio laws), but suffice it to point out that HB 194:
- Severely cuts the period for early in-person voting from 35 days to just 16, eliminating in particular Sunday voting that has proved so popular and convenient, and eliminates satellite locations for early voting;
- Removes the requirement that poll workers direct errant voters to the correct polling location;
- Prohibits counties from mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters (this may change next year) and prohibits counties from providing return postage on absentee ballots; and
- Invalidates any vote where a voter properly marks the ballot in support of a particular candidate but also writes in the candidate’s name.
In short, HB 194 means that “the short lines and uncomplicated voting process during 2008’s record voting turnout will be replaced by long waits, confused voters, and a glut of provisional ballots.” Or as Congresswoman Marcia Fudge put it, HB 194 has provisions that “seem to have no other purpose than to directly disenfranchise eligible voters.” HB 194 can be repealed by a vote of the people if 231,000 valid voter signatures are submitted on petitions filed by September 29, 2011.
So how would helping to achieve this result honor our workers and their families? First, because our labor force is severely impacted by restrictions on absentee and early voting. Wage earners are among those most harmed by HB 194. I was a supervisor of poll monitors in the 2004 general election in Cleveland’s Ward 5 and I was heart-broken to see a steady stream of potential voters stepping out of line at the polling places because they had to get to work or their break time was over. Imagine how I felt later that evening when we all learned that the election result in Ohio was close enough to have been affected by long lines at the polls and voting irregularities like casting ballots in the wrong precinct.
Second, if the petition drive succeeds HB 194 will be halted at least until after the 2012 election, so it cannot wreak havoc on our election coming up on November 8, 2011. That means better turnout for voting NO on Issue 2 in order to repeal union-busting law SB5. What better way to pay tribute to our working men and women than by helping to secure the collective bargaining rights of police officers, fire fighters, teachers and other public employees in Ohio?
I am carrying an HB 194 petition with me as I canvass door-to-door and attend events for my campaign. (I also have absentee ballot request forms and voter registration cards with me, and you can download these from my campaign website.) If you see me on the campaign trail, please ask to sign the HB 194 petition. Or you can stop by the Organizing For America office in 13209 Shaker Square, or check the Fair Elections Ohio website for contacts and other locations for signing. You can even download your own HB 194 petition and start collecting signatures from your friends and neighbors.
Have a wonderful Labor Day, and remember to honor our working men and women for their contributions to our nation’s strength, prosperity and well-being.