Ohio Democratic Party Statement on Latest GOP Voter Suppression Effort

COLUMBUS-   In response to the passage of an amendment to the Senate version of the Transportation budget that would require residents to obtain an Ohio driver’s license in order to practice their right to vote, Ohio Democratic Party leaders released the following statements:

“This is yet another appalling assault on voting rights in the state of Ohio,” said Chair of Party Engagement and former State Senator Nina Turner. “Year after year, the Republicans in our state legislature have abused their power – power bestowed upon them by the voters of Ohio – to pass one bill after another stripping away access to the ballot box.

“The only way to stop this madness is to awaken the sleeping giants in Ohio and across the nation, and join forces to protect the greatest equalizer so many of our ancestors fought and died to exercise. I echo the call of Leader Schiavoni and my colleagues in the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus for Governor Kasich to line-item veto this amendment, if it remains in the budget.” 

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper added, “Sadly, it’s become an annual tradition in Ohio for Jon Husted and Mike DeWine to get hauled into federal court, losing again and again because Ohio leaders don’t seem to be able to follow basic Constitutional law.  Hopefully House leaders and Governor Kasich come to their senses and avoid another costly, losing lawsuit.”

Ohio Senate Democrats were successful in eliminating other egregious amendments to the transportation budget, such as removing provisions that would have hurt local jobs and unfairly singled out non-citizens on their driver’s licenses. Upon passage of the amendment to the state transportation budget, Senate Democrats sent Governor Kasich a letter calling on him to line-item veto this voting provision if it remains included when it reaches his desk.

Student organizations from across the state have weighed in against the proposal, including from the following schools: Kenyon, Wright State, Columbus State, Capital University, University of Toledo, Ohio University, Youngstown State, Akron, The Ohio State University, Marietta College, Miami University, Oberlin, and the University of Dayton.

This issue has received national attention, and Nina Turner will appear on MSNBC’s The Ed Show tonight to discuss this critical issue affecting voting in Ohio.


Ohio Democratic Party Statement on Six Week Ban

COLUMBUS – Today, the Ohio House of Representatives passed the Six Week Abortion ban 55 to 40. The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.

“With the passage of HB69, Ohio Republicans have shown they’ll stop at nothing in their quest to deny women their rights, no matter how dangerous their efforts may be,” said Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus Chair Kathy DiCristofaro. “This bill is not only unconstitutional, it is a gross affront to Ohio women’s abilities to make their own health care decisions.”

“This is a very sad day for women and families in Ohio. After trying to pass this dangerous bill for several years, Ohio Republicans were finally successful today in their goal of stripping away the rights of Ohio women to make deeply personal decisions about their body, their health, and their family. Instead of focusing on issues that would improve lives, like raising the wage or creating good-paying jobs, Republicans remain obsessed with pushing their extreme, radical beliefs onto the citizens of our state.”

“If it reaches his desk, Governor Kasich should abide by his oath to uphold the Constitution and veto this dangerous and unnecessary bill. If not, we and others will call upon the courts to strike it down, which they will no doubt do.”


Ohio Governor In New Hampshire To Share “Ohio Story”: Kasich Policies Have Decimated Local Communities and Attacked The Middle Class in Ohio

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Ohio Governor John Kasich arrived today in New Hampshire to share the “Ohio Story” and continue what has been a peculiar approach to a presidential campaign so far.  While in New Hampshire, Kasich is expected to tout Ohio’s recovery while attempting to show he is a bona fide conservative.

Unfortunately, the facts in Ohio don’t match up with Kasich’s political rhetoric.

The heart of Kasich’s approach in Ohio has been the same trickle-down policies that have consistently failed nationwide.

In order to give tax breaks to the wealthy, Kasich has raided local government and school funds year after year, resulting in lay-offs of teachers, firefighters and emergency services around the state, and local tax increases in the form of local municipal and school tax levies. He has also proposed tax increase after tax increase on lower income Ohioans in order to pay for his tax cuts for the wealthy.

If John Kasich ran the nation the way he does Ohio, state governments would be forced to forfeit their money to Washington where the spending would then increase.  He would force states do the hard work of cutting costs, and then take the credit,” stated Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

Kasich has been testing the waters of a presidential run, but in a strange way–traveling to states like Wyoming and Arizona to grandstand on his widely discredited idea for a federal balanced budget Constitutional amendment.

“John Kasich should’ve checked the facts before coming to New Hampshire to tout his ‘Ohio story’ of putting special interests first while making middle class families pay the price,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley.  

 “Under Governor Maggie Hassan’s leadership, New Hampshire’s is moving in the right direction, with an unemployment rate that’s a full point lower than Ohio’s. Not to mention that New Hampshire’s median household income in 2013 was the highest in the nation, and more than $25,000 greater than Ohio’s. If John Kasich thought that Granite Staters would be impressed by his failed ‘Ohio story,’ he’s going to be sorely disappointed,” added Buckley.    

Ohio Chairman Pepper added: “the Kasich trickle-down approach has kept Ohio’s recovery lagging behind other states’. The last thing our country needs is more of these same failed policies.”

Raymond Buckley has served as the New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair since 2007 and is currently the President of the Association of State Democratic Chairs and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

 David Pepper was elected Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party in December of 2014 and was a two time statewide candidate in Ohio, served on the Cincinnati, Ohio, City Council, and was President of the Hamilton County Commission. 


Ohio Leaders Appalled By Latest Republican Voter Suppression Effort

COLUMBUS- Experts and leaders are calling out the news that Ohio Senate Republicans have inserted an amendment into the Senate version of the Transportation budget that would require residents to obtain an Ohio driver’s license in order to practice their right to vote. Such a measure is legally problematic because it adds a costly new obstacle to voting for, among others, many Ohio college students who happen to be from other states but are already legally permitted to vote in Ohio.

“This is textbook voter suppression from a bygone era,” said former Federal Sixth Circuit Judge Nathaniel Jones, also former general counsel of the NAACP. “A poll tax, tied to a criminal sanction, is the type of cynical obstacle to voting we fought to remove from the books decades ago. It’s a sad day when Ohio Republicans are now aiming such grotesque tactics directly at Ohio’s young voters.”

“We just commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and now our state legislature is attempting to remove a basic American right—the right to vote,” said Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, former Senior Vice President of The Ohio State University. “I hope the legislature will withdraw this unwarranted proposal that smacks in the face of 50 years of progress and could silence hundreds of thousands of student voices.”

Congressman Tim Ryan weighed in on the troubling amendment, saying, “This is a blatant, political and outrageous attempt to suppress young people from voting in Ohio.  Instead of coming up with ideas or more tolerant policies to bring young voters to their side, the Republican legislature knee caps them. So much for them being the party of Lincoln. “

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper called on those Ohio officials who have a responsibility to ensure that Ohio comport with election law to speak out. “Ohio doesn’t need any more costly, losing lawsuits because Republican legislators don’t understand basic Constitutional law. As the elections and legal leaders of Ohio, Secretary of State Husted and Attorney General DeWine should immediately speak out against this blatant and illegal voter suppression.”


Paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party, David Pepper, Chairman, 340 East Fulton Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215

Battleground Voices: Nina Turner on the Urgency of Restoring the Voting Rights Act


In 2012, Congressman John Lewis came to the Buckeye state to encourage Ohioans to exercise their right to vote. At a dinner in Youngstown, Ohio he told the story of his march across the bridge from Selma to Montgomery. The Congressman recalled having a backpack filled with an apple, an orange, two books, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Having been part of this non-violent movement for social change for so long, he knew he was going to be arrested. Never did he imagine, however, the level of brutality that ascended upon him and his fellow marchers that day.   Congressman Lewis told us his story to remind us of the sacrifices of life and limb that were made for free and unfettered access to the ballot box.

A few weeks ago, on the 50th Anniversary of the Selma Civil Rights March (also known as Bloody Sunday), Congressman Lewis went back to that same bridge in Alabama to remind the country and the world of the sacrifices made to ensure the passage of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Tragically, the very gains made by these freedom fifty years ago was stripped away the moment the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Shelby vs. Holder in 2013. The decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act immediately opened the floodgates to voter suppression legislation targeting minority and low-income voters in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The manipulation of the electorate is nothing new, but in recent years its scope has expanded dramatically. And it’s no longer relegated to traditional southern states. In 2012, Ohio gained national attention for all the wrong reasons when our “Secretary of Suppression” Jon Husted appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court to take away the last three days of early voting. He wielded the power of his office to create an atmosphere of confusion, chaos and intimidation, intent upon discouraging participation in the electoral process.

In 2014, Husted and the GOP-controlled legislature doubled-down on their voter suppression tactics, from the use of directives that confused and complicated the voting process to the passage of legislation denying early voting opportunities.

These twenty-first century, Jim Crow-like attempts to thwart access to the ballot box must be stopped. The truth is, our democracy is stronger when more people participate and when everyone’s views are heard. Making it harder for the most vulnerable voters to participate in the political process inevitably leads to policies and policymakers that do not represent the interests of all people. This is why Congress must act to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.

Our nation is eroding the progress made from battles fought and won generations ago. This is unacceptable. We are a nation built on the premise of justice and equality for all. The ballot box is the symbolic manifestation of that promise. It is the only place where our gender, race, sexual-orientation, religion, or socio-economic status does not matter. We must protect this great equalizer.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.”

Fifty years later, we are at another turning point. Members of Congress can turn their backs on history, or they can continue the forward march that began in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. We cannot rest until the Voting Rights Act is restored and strengthened. We owe this to ourselves, to future generations and to the men, women and children who sacrificed their bodies on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Click here to sign my friend State Representative Emilia Sykes’ petition to support voting rights.

Nina Turner is the Ohio Democratic Party Chair of Party Engagement

Ohio Democratic Party Response to President Obama’s Speech 

CLEVELAND- In response to President Obama’s speech today calling on leaders to support policies that strengthen the middle class, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper released the following statement:

“President Obama’s message today highlighting the importance of building and sustaining a strong middle class is one that sorely needs to be heard by the leaders of our state.  Unlike the President’s focus, Governor Kasich’s most recent budget proposal continues the trickle-down philosophy that is not working for the majority of Ohio families.

“With almost half of Ohioans living one paycheck away from poverty, and wages stagnant for years, it’s time for Ohio policies that strengthen working families.”

Nearly 5,000 Ohioans Sign Letter to Portman Asking Him To Acknowledge Mistake, Remove His Name From the GOP Letter to Iran 

**UPDATE** As of Saturday, March 14th at 10:00 AM, 5,312 Ohioans have signed the letter to Portman.

In the past 24 hours, nearly 5,000 of his Ohio constituents have signed a letter asking Senator Rob Portman to acknowledge his mistake and remove his name—and Ohio’s good name—from the now infamous Letter To Iran, signed by 47 Republican Senators.

As of 3:30 PM on Friday, 4,904 citizens signed on to the letter. 

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper released the following statement: 

“Folks from across the political spectrum—in Ohio and beyond—have all expressed the same disappointment that so many Senators, including Senator Portman, would sign such an irresponsible document.  In less than 24 hours, nearly 5,000 Ohioans have now signed up to echo that outrage.”

“This is a clear message from Ohioans that we deserve better than such highly partisan gimmicks, particularly when it comes to foreign relations and issues as serious as Iran and the potential for war.  Senator Portman should answer these thousands of Ohioans and acknowledge that signing this infamous letter was a mistake.” 

Battleground Voices: Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach on the Fight for Equality


Seelbach headshot

When I moved to Ohio from Kentucky in 1998 to attend college, I never imagined the possibility of marriage equality in all 50 states in my lifetime.

As a kid, I’d often dreamt about a wedding ceremony with my future partner, surrounded by friends and family and legally sanctioned by our government.  I wondered who would be my “best man,” who my husband might be and, embarrassing enough, what colors we’d pick for our reception!  But it felt like just a childhood dream.  That it just wasn’t possible in my lifetime.  Not as a gay man.

And then it started.  In the spring of 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional under the Massachusetts constitution to allow only opposite-sex couples to marry.  The ruling started a conversation.  For the first time for so many, people began to talk about gay and lesbian equality, marriage and what it means to be treated fairly under the law.

The road wasn’t smooth.  Later that year 13 states, including Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky passed constitutional amendments, barring marriage equality in their respective states. Others followed, including Tennessee.  While the conversation had started, we were on the defense, fighting constitutional amendments across the country.

And then the strangest thing happened: more and more people began coming out.  Nurses, firefighters, moms, and dads.  Regular folks.  And people realized marriage equality wasn’t some legal idea or theory.  It wasn’t just a political talking point meant to divide us.  It wasn’t going to “destroy the sanctity of marriage,” or hurt families, but was about celebrating people we know (Our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors) and their love and commitment for one another.

We began to see a monumental shift in public opinion. The first African American President of the United States came out in support of marriage equality.  Then, more and more judges, appointed by both Republican and Democratic Presidents, issued opinions in support marriage equality.

And the tide officially turned.  With marriage equality legal in almost 40 of our 50 states, we are on the verge of a historic decision from the United States Supreme Court.  Today, I am proud to stand with almost 200 elected official from across the 6th Circuit, gay and straight, in support of full marriage equality, nationwide.

But it is important to understand that our work doesn’t end today and doesn’t end after the court issues a ruling in June.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, but racism, sexism and bias towards people of different religions and national origins exist every day.  The Americans with Disability Act passed in 1990, yet access to buildings is still difficult for people with different abilities.

Our fight for true equality does not stop with laws being passed, judges issuing rulings or politicians getting elected.  It will not end until all people are truly treated equally and fairly.

But, given that I will celebrate my 10th year anniversary with my partner Craig on June 12 (several weeks before the Supreme Court’s ruling), I have started thinking about who my best man might be…and what colors we’ll have at our reception.

Chris Seelbach serves on the Cincinnati City Council.

While Marching in Selma, Portman Reaffirms Reluctance to Stand Up For Voting Rights

Last weekend, our nation commemorated the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, where brave men and women were attacked for marching in support of voting rights.

One hundred members of Congress joined yesterday’s march, and in one of the most powerful moments of his speech, President Obama challenged them to not simply march there, but to restore the Voting Rights Act back in Washington:

“One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.”

Unfortunately, while Ohio Senator Rob Portman was marching, he was not listening.

Think Progress reported, while in Selma, Sen. Portman was asked if he planned to support the proposed fix to the Voting Rights Act that is required due to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Section 4 of the Act.

His response? “I haven’t looked at it. Is there a Senate version?”

Yes, Senator, there is. But it has no Republican sponsors.

“This day is about more than just tweaks to the Voting Rights Act. This is about ensuring equal justice and learning from the lessons of the past,” Portman continued to Think Process.

ODP Chair of Party Engagement Nina Turner took objection when learning of Sen. Portman’s remarks:

“Actions speak louder than political rhetoric. If Sen. Portman truly believes in equal access to the ballot box, he can take immediate action by pledging to support the VRA Amendment that has been introduced by his Democratic colleagues in both chambers of the U.S. Congress.”

“Unfortunately, research shows a continued increase in voting restrictions across the country, and more often than not they impact America’s minority and low-income populations.”

“We have learned many important lessons from the past; the question is, does Sen. Portman have the courage to stand up and protect our right to vote in the present,” stated Turner.

Along with not supporting the current fix to the Voting Rights Act, Senator Portman has not supported legislation to increase participation in elections including the Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly known as the Motor-Voter legislation.


Paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party, David Pepper, Chairman, 340 East Fulton Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215

Michigan and Ohio Democratic Parties, Along With Officials From All Four Sixth Circuit States, United to Submit Amicus Brief in Support of Marriage Equality

Today, the Ohio Democratic Party and the Michigan Democratic Party, joined by more than 150 elected officials from across the four states of the Sixth Circuit, together filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of marriage equality.

The Brief urges the Court to reverse the judgment of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and reject the argument made by the Sixth Circuit and the Ohio and Michigan Attorneys General that the basic constitutional rights of Ohio couples and their children should be subject to popular vote. To view the Brief click here.

“Elected officials from across the Sixth Circuit are speaking up for the thousands of couples in our four states whose rights are being violated by the bans on same sex marriage,” said David Pepper, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman. “And our point is simple—basic rights such as equal protection should not be subject to popular elections, but are protected by the United States Constitution.”

“Here in Michigan, far too many families have been denied liberty and justice for too long, because of the out of touch actions of Republicans Bill Schuette and Rick Snyder,” said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair.

“Thousands of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on frivolous, fringe arguments, which have only served to embarrass our state. This effort to deny equal rights to parents and children, based on nothing more than a desire to score cheap partisan points with the far right wing of the Republican party, is just wrong,” Johnson said.

Mark Totten, one of the attorneys who wrote the brief, added: “For two years now the State of Michigan has argued that the children at issue in the Michigan case would be better off as orphans then have two gay parents.  That’s wrong.  The rights of these kids – so many of whom are special needs – to have two loving parents should not be decided at the ballot box.”

State Representative Nickie Antonio added, one of hundreds of officials to sign the brief, “All loving, committed relationships in Ohio should matter equally. However, while I have the responsibility to pass laws that affect over 11 million Ohioans as a State Representative, I am denied the dignity and protections to marry Jean Kosmac, my partner of 20 years. It’s time to value all families in Ohio.”



Paid for and authorized by the Ohio Democratic Party, not authorized by any federal candidate or campaign committee. David Pepper, Chairman, 340 East Fulton St, Columbus, Ohio 43215.