CLEVELAND, OH--Late Wednesday, the League of Women Voters of Ohio filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State LaRose challenging his unconstitutional August 12 order limiting drop boxes to one per county. The League asks the court to rescind this order and adopt a reasonable drop box-to-voter ratio for each county. Joining the League are Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Ohio State Conference of the NAACP, and seven individual voters.
"Access to the vote depends on safe, reliable options for casting a ballot, and limiting drop boxes to one per county severely diminishes this access. To do so during a deadly pandemic is negligent and foolhardy," said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. "Ohio should emulate other states by allowing multiple, secure drop boxes per county, otherwise communities of color, rural Ohioans, immunocompromised individuals, and income-sensitive voters lacking affordable transportation face unfair barriers to the ballot. As the COVID-19 virus continues to threaten the lives of Ohioans, the State should be focused on expanding safe voting options, not reducing those we do have."
Following Ohio's April 28 primary election--which had been delayed from March 17--the League of Women Voters of Ohio and county election boards began expressing the need for counties to install more than one secure drop box ahead of November. Multiple drop boxes were needed so that more voters could drop off their absentee ballots and applications without increasing the burden on the US Postal Service and to reduce in-person lines for early and election day voting. The need for more secure drop boxes was compounded by delays in US Postal Service delivery and the elimination of 34 mail sorting machines throughout the state, which have caused many voters to lose confidence in the mail system.
"Due to the perceived uncertainty surrounding this election, the pandemic, and the historic level of voter suppression, voters must have as many safe and reliable options as possible to cast their ballots," said Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. "Now is not the time for states to limit voting options, now is the time to act to ensure safe and efficient elections in which all eligible voters can confidently participate."
In addition to organizational partners, the League is joined in this case by seven individual Ohio voters, Beatrice Griffin, Sarah Rikleen, C. Ellen Connally, Matthew Nowling, Ryllie Jesionowski, Soli Collins, and Marcus Germany. The plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Dechert LLP, and local Cleveland counsel.
"Secretary of State LaRose's ban on additional ballot boxes is nonsensical in the age of COVID, when voters are concerned with protecting their health while exercising their constitutional right to vote," said Andre Washington, Ohio state president of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute. "We are committed to fighting voter suppression so that Ohioans can exercise their right to vote safely and without barriers."
"The Ohio State Conference of the NAACP is pushing for more drop boxes so that our voters have the option of voting without having to rely on the postal service--and so that other barriers to voting are less of a factor," said Tom Roberts, president of the Ohio NAACP. "At a time when we are all dealing with a global pandemic, the State should be doing everything possible for voters to cast their ballot without having unnecessary challenges such as travel time, long lines, traffic jams, and lack of transportation, to name a few obstacles."
"It is time for Ohio's highest election official to stop using voter suppression tactics, and focus his efforts on making sure all Ohio voters can safely cast their ballot during this unprecedented pandemic," said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee. "Voters who do not have personal access to reliable transportation, or who are wary of using mass transit during this time may not have the ability to reach the singular drop box in their county. It has been proven that drop-off boxes are a secure method of obtaining ballots, and these can be placed in locations much closer to a voter's residence. Secretary LaRose is hindering the fundamental right to vote at a time when he should be doing all he can to encourage voter turnout and voter confidence by promoting options that have already been proven to be safe and secure."
"Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's scheme to suppress our most fundamental right--our vote--isn't just abhorrent: it's recklessly homicidal," Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland-based civil-rights lawyer, former Cleveland law director, and local counsel in the case. "LaRose imposed his edict to limit ballot drop boxes to just one per county when (1) by election day, a deadly virus will have killed over 250,000 of our fellow Americans and seriously sickened millions, (2) the White House and Postmaster General are choking off mail service, and (3) Ohio's largest counties have hundreds of thousands of voters for just a single drop box. Why is LaRose so willing not just to undermine democracy in the most important election of our lives, but to endanger Ohioans? Voters shouldn't have to choose between their lives and their votes. Federal courts must stop LaRose's scheme and ensure voting is both accessible and safe for all."
"We are committed to ensuring that all eligible voters are able to cast a ballot safely and securely and with confidence that their vote will be counted," said Dechert LLP partner Neil Steiner. "Particularly in light of the well-documented issues with mail delivery, drop boxes for the return of mail-in ballots is a critical part of ensuring that all Ohioans are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote."
Ohio voters can request an absentee ballot right now, and ballots must be received at election offices before the close of the polls on November 3, or postmarked no later than November 2.
STATE ACTIONS: ASK Senators to vote to pass HB680 so the Secretary of State can proceed. In addition, passing SB191 would make online applications for absentee ballots possible.
U.S. ACTIONS: CALL U.S. Senators and ask for the message below.
Message: "Ohio's Primary Election was underfunded, which challenged both Boards of Elections and voters. Please appropriate $3.6 Billion for election administration for the states so that Ohio has the resources it needs to run a secure, safe and accessible election, even as the pandemic persists."
Senate Bill 191 is commonsense legislation to make our Absentee Voting system more efficient for voters and election officials, by allowing voters to request an absentee ballot online.
As we saw in the Primary, voting by mail in Ohio is inefficient, confusing, and cumbersome for voters and election officials alike. Countless Ohioans were cut out of the process through no fault of their own. SB 191 would allow voters to securely request their ballot online, but we also need other improvements: prepaid postage for ballots and applications, multiple drop boxes and Early Vote Centers per county, and more.
We need to be ensure that ALL registered voters can exercise their right to vote in November of 2020. In response to the Primary election earlier this year there are several actions which would make it easier for ALL voters to have their voices heard. Please help us lend support to our Secretary of State by encouraging our representaives in Columbus to pass legislation for a variety of items:
ASKS In order of priority:
MESSAGE: "Ohio's Primary Election was underfunded, which challenged both Boards of Elections and voters. Please appropriate $3.6 Billion for election administration for the states so that Ohio has the resources it needs to run a secure, safe and accessible election, even as the pandemic persists."
Whats been happening... From February 9-20 the house conference committee on HB 9 held 10 hearings on how to remedy the explosion in the number of school districts that will be responsible for funding Edchoice vouchers out of local funds starting next school year. More than 400 beneficiaries and opponents of vouchers shared their views during 50 hours of testimony. Students, parents, school board members, treasurers and superintendents, education advocates, and concerned citizens from all corners of the state - among them LWVO's education advocacy specialist Susie Kaeser - made the trip to Columbus to address the committee. But the needle has not moved.
Here's What You Can Do Today Governor DeWine will be meeting with house and senate leaders this week. Contact Goveror DeWine by calling 614-644-4357 or 614-466-3555. Urge him to call for an end to performance-based vouchers and the deduction method of funding them. We need his leadership to help prevent the curb the damage done to public education and Ohio communities. Two important points: the report card is not legitimate and can't be made fair; and students and whole communities suffer from the deduction method of funding vouchers. If you testified or submitted written testimony, be sure to send it to the Governor with your request for his help to protect public education.
The senate holds the key. The Senate is holding on to performance-based vouchers and the deduction method + the old system. Their solution uses the report card but ensnarls fewer schools. Take time to ask your state senator if they need help understanding what's wrong with the report card and why tinkering with triggers doesn't solve the problem; if they need to know more about how the deduction method is hurting your community; and if they think private education is more important than strengthening public schools. Ask them to look out for local communities by protecting public education.
Additional Arguments If you want to add to your request make it clear:
To learn more about this issue click here
We have to keep up the pressure. Public education is in serious jeopardy.
The Ask Call House Speaker Householder (614- 466-2500); Senate President Obhof (614- 466-7505); and your state senator and representative with the following message: (Find the contact information of your state legislators here) Public school districts cannot afford to pay for the education of children who do not attend their schools. It is unacceptable to allow for voucher use to grow and further burden local school district budgets while freezing state funds for public schools. Pass legislation before February 1 that will give financial relief to districts already hard-hit by this misuse of public funds, reduces the criteria used to define buildings as failed, and make income based vouchers the default.
Want to do more? Write a letter to the editor. In 150 words urging legislators to find a solution before February 1. Inaction is not acceptable. Because of the unfair expansion of EdChoice, every state senator represents multiple districts that are affected. They have good reasons to work together to find a solution. They are responsible for providing for a thorough and efficient system of public schools.
Background EdChoice is the name of Ohio's vouchers that become available based on the test performance of individual public schools. It is one of the high-stakes consequences of Ohio's state accountability program. Legislation included in the Ohio budget for the 2020-2021 biennium vastly increased access to EdChoice vouchers by expanding the performance data used to trigger what schools are designated as Edchoice, and by making it easier for individuals in those districts to access a voucher. They also froze school funding at the 2019 level. Click here for information by OASBO that details all the rule changes that caused this expansion and proposed remedies. https://cms.oasbo-ohio.org/getmedia/617fc629-b8a2-4723-bbd2-18d6b079f5a1/Proposed-Voucher-Solutions-11-2019_Final The number of Edchoice districts grew from 39 of the state's 612 districts in FY 2019 to more than 400 in FY 21. In addition to high poverty districts where low test scores are predictable, Edchoice is now widespread in wealthier districts, urban, rural and suburban. Ohio's unique system for funding vouchers through a deduction method, makes local school districts pay part of the cost of each voucher which, depending on the demand for vouchers and the amount of the local contribution, can quickly hollow out local school district budgets. Funds appropriated for public school students should not be used to fund students who the district does not educate. Most vouchers are used in religious schools, and go to students never educated in a public school.The League of Women Voters Ohio opposes vouchers, rejects high-stakes testing as a misuse of standardized tests, and supports adequate and equitable funding of schools. The EdChoice voucher program is a violation of all three of these positions. Call your state legislators now save public schools!
Tuesday, January 21, 2020 5:30-7 p.m.
Toledo Main Library 325 N. Michigan St.
ISSUE: Changes in state law have caused the number of Ohio school districts affected by the expansion of the EdChoice voucher program to increase from 39 to 139, and next year that number is expected to be more than 400 districts! Meanwhile. the legislature froze state aid to public schools for the next two years. Ohio's school voucher programs provide tax dollars to pay tuition at private schools, and the unrestricted growth of the program endangers public education in Ohio. Take action now to protect public schools!
ASK: Tell your legislators that public funds should prioritize public school children, and that local school districts should not have to pay for students they do not educate. Click here to use our easy letter-writing tool to send a message to your legislators.
For more information check out this article from Cleveland.com about the growing problem.
It is not surprising that many of you are interested in supporting the petition efforts to place an initiative to close gun loopholes on the ballot in 2021. Certainly, the issue itself is one that is consistent with our positions and we are past masters at petitioning.
Please remember that given that this is a state-level issue, and the LWVO board voted to remain neutral, no League - local or national - can take any actions or stances that are different. Jurisdictional rules are critical to League operations at all levels. So, just as local Leagues would not want to be contradicted by another League entity about an issue in your local community, local Leagues cannot contradict state policy or position. Actions such as petition gathering or statements made in support are strictly prohibited, though neutral activities like conducting educational forums with a multitude of perspectives is very much encouraged.
Here are key points that explain the LWVO stance.
1. The LWVO board voted to stay neutral. Since this is a state policy issue, it is within LWVO's jurisdiction. A local League cannot contradict this stance. The initiative campaign has had several conversations over a six-month period with members of the board, staff, and members of the lobby corps before this vote was taken. There were concerns about a number of issues.
2. The board looks at four interlocking factors when reviewing ballot initiatives: (a) alignment with existing policies - including the appropriate scope of the Ohio constitution; (b) the clarity and legality of the language; (c) winnability, including campaign plan, budget, polling, etc.); and (d) possible unintended consequences. Our decision is never just about the position itself.
3. We believe that we will be much better facilitators/conveners of events about the issue than helpers in getting petitions. For that to be the case, our neutrality is key. Local Leagues can be instrumental in hosting balanced forums on the issue. LWV is uniquely suited, because of our trusted brand, to create such opportunities for voters to engage with the issue and neutrality certainly helps with the public trust. Clearly more voters need to understand the initiative and local Leagues have a great deal of know-how that can facilitate this.
I hope this clarifies the LWVO stance on this.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns.
Iris Meltzer, President
Now you can help ensure it passes the House before the end of the year! Send a message to your state Representative to help ensure Ohio makes its voter registration systems more secure.
WE NEED BETTER REGISTRATION SYSTEMS!
SB 194 requires the Secretary of State to adopt rules establishing guidelines for the approval and continued certification of voter registration systems. More secure voter registration systems decreases the chance for errors that would disenfranchise voters.
Please ask Governor DeWine to require that these new CAFO's be required to treat the manure to human/municipal treatment standards and that when manure is applied to require the soil phosphorous to be the agronomic rate (40 ppm) used for commercial fertilizer rather than the excessive 150 ppm allowed for manure.
Here is a link for the ask to the governor: https://lakeeriewaterkeeper.salsalabs.org/lakeeriewaterkeepergovdewineletter/index.html
And here is a sample local government resolution to ask for treatment and lower soil phosphorous already passed by Toledo, Lucas County & Oregon. https://files.constantcontact.com/a0c7d23a701/3868602d-ca04-45e1-afb8-f0aa0ab98349.pdf
Let me know if you have any questions. Sandy Bihn Lake Erie Waterkeeper
WHY: Every Ohioans deserves to be assured that their vote is safe and secure, so they can vote with confidence and know their vote was accurately counted! More reliable machines would also make it less likely for voters to be mistakenly purged from the voter rolls.
Click here to write to your senator, and ask them to support Senate Bill 194.
Senate Bill 194 would require Ohio to adopt security guidelines and standards for the purchase and continued certification of voting equipment and add a cybersecurity expert as a non-voting member of the Board of Voting Machine Examiners.
According to the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, corporations generally cannot be prohibited from making campaign contributions, but Ohio never updated its campaign finance laws to reflect this new landscape. Ohioans should be able to "follow the money."
In 2010, an overwhelming majority (8-1) in Citizens United v. FEC emphasized the merits of transparency: "... prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. Shareholders can determine whether their corporation's political speech advances the corporation's interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are "in the pocket" of so-called moneyed interests... This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."
Why is Disclosure & Transparency Important?
We need YOUR help to continue this work! Call the Secretary of State's Office. Click here to view our action alert with the number and message.
Your immediate action is IMPERATIVE to setting the course to right this ship!
STEP ONE: We have established a SLAY THE GERRYMANDER ONCE AND FOR ALL FUND to help us educate our Ohio voters about the importance of SCOTUS's ruling and the direct impact it will have on their lives for YEARS to come. Your donation will also help us GET OUT THE VOTE in 2020 to insure we elect politicians who are committed to protecting the rights of all voters.
There was an attack on our democracy this morning and WE NEED YOU TO FIGHT BACK!
STEP TWO: Urge your legislators to: Take the Pledge to End Gerrymandering
As we said earlier today ...WE WILL PERSIST! Persistence starts by fighting back. Donate to our SLAY THE GERRYMANDER ONCE AND FOR ALL FUND to fight for our democracy!
Together, we will overcome.
Iris Meltzer President League of Women Women Voters of Ohio
THE ISSUE: House Bill 154 would end the state take over of schools and instead require the creation of community learning centers for schools in low performing districts. It is a constructive solution to the failed state takeover law that is now at risk!
HB 154 was overwhelmingly approved by the House. Now, some senators want to replace the old plan with a new state intervention that includes funding for consultants but not children. The Ohio School Transformation Plan, like the failed policy it would replace:
THE ASK - Voice your opposition to a plan that perpetuates the misuse of standardized tests, distrusts local leaders, and punishes poor children. Enter your address on the right to contact your state senator. (A sample message included on the next page...)
The enormous and long-lasting impact of the Census count means that nonprofit organizations and local Complete Count Committees throughout Ohio are invested in this cause and want to engage in this work. But reaching hard to count communities requires resources and funding. How can you help?
You can help ensure we COUNT EVERY BUCKEYE by asking your State Senator to support the funding of Census work. Click below to use our easy letter writing tool.
Here's the message >>> I am calling to express concern about Senate Bill 22, which would permit boards of elections to reduce the minimum number of poll workers in precincts that utilize electronic poll books. While cost-savings for local governments is an issue, the changes could result in long lines which may inadvertently turn away voters in some locations. This bill requires additional safeguards which would ensure that a reduction in poll workers at any given location would not cause harm to voters. Specifically, I ask that Election Administration Procedures be required by law. EAPs require Boards of Elections to think through how many poll workers and voting machines are needed based on expected turnout for that election, and would become critical if SB22 was passed. Thank you for your time and consideration.
What is the Poll Worker Reduction Bill? In a voting location that serves more than one precinct, if electronic pollbooks are used at that location, Senate Bill 22 reduces the minimum number of precinct election officials who must be appointed from four per precinct to two. We know from our many members who work at the polls that there are indeed times during low turnout elections that polling locations can be overstaffed and could effectively manage the polls with fewer people. But we also know that poll worker reductions could be detrimental to voters in some places during a higher turnout election, especially if technical problems were to arise. We believe that Election Administration Plans, required by law, would be a balancing measure to this bill.
More About EAPs Election Administration Plans require Boards of Elections to systematically plan out all phases of an election to ensure there are adequate resources (poll workers, voting machines, ballots, etc.) for each location, as well as other protections such as requiring a post-election audit to verify results and having pre-thought-out contingency plans in case something does go wrong. However, they are currently a Secretary of State Directive and can change at the whim of any Secretary of State in office in the future.
THE ISSUE: The Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), an interstate commission that represents 8 states, is tasked with creating standards and programs that will decrease pollution and maintain water quality in the Ohio River Basin. Advocates have succeeded in pressuring ORSANCO to abandon original plans of removing pollution control standards along the Ohio River. Now, ORSANCO is attempting to make state adherence to the standards voluntary.
The proposal will move straight to a public comment period, but the number of public hearings has not yet been determined. So that residents along the river have a chance to be heard and advocate for themselves, a minimum of three hearings located along the river at different locations is essential. There are 33 drinking water intakes along the Ohio River that distribute water to 5 million people living in the Ohio River Valley. To keep Ohioans safe and healthy, strong pollution control standards must be in place. This issue is too important and the stakes are too high. A decision should not be made hastily or without a real chance for public input.
THE ASK: Please contact ORSANCO Technical Committee member Erin Sherer via phone or email. Below is a sample script.
Phone: 614-644-2018 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am writing/calling to ask that, as Ohio's representative on ORSANCO's Technical Committee, you request at least three public hearings be conducted in different locations along the river on the new pollution control standards draft proposal. The Ohio River is 981 miles long, and one public hearing is insufficient to allow the millions of residents along the river opportunity to ask questions and provide comments. I appreciate your time.
Jen Miller LWV Ohio Executive Director