COLUMBUS – Ohio Democrats are taking the battle to protect and expand the vote to the courts, joining a lawsuit challenging Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine for making it harder for eligible Ohioans to register, cast a ballot and have their ballot counted.
“With the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act being celebrated this month, Ohio Democrats are committed to fulfilling the vision of that landmark law,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “It has been a central value of the Democratic Party that we support greater voter participation — regardless of party. We’ve never solved a problem with less democracy.”
“As Republican politicians try to make it harder to vote, Democrats are working to expand access to the polls,” said Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens. “We won’t stop fighting to ensure that every eligible voter is registered, every registered voter is able to vote, and that every vote is accurately counted.”
The Ohio Democratic Party, as well as the Montgomery and Cuyahoga County Democratic Parties, joined the suit, which contests the elimination of “Golden Week,” cutbacks to same-day registration and early voting times, shuttering of early voting locations, reductions of electronic voting machines and the exclusion of more than a million registered voters from the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
“All of these changes instituted by Ohio Republicans, in the wake of President Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012, make it harder for African Americans, other communities of color, young people, low-income individuals and seniors to register, cast a ballot and have it counted,” said Party Engagement Chair Nina Turner. “That is no coincidence. Ending ‘Golden Week,’ when citizens could register and vote at the same time, is particularly galling. I was a member of the legislature when the bill passed on party lines, and I informed my Republican colleagues that their actions were turning back the hands of time and would have a negative impact on the African-American community. Any effort to take away voting rights is a slap in the face to our democracy. If we want to lift up and empower the people, we must stop putting up hurdles for them to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
In 2008, 13,000 voters registered and 67,000 cast ballots during Golden Week. In 2012, Golden Week saw 6,000 new registrants and 90,000 ballots cast.
The anniversary of the Voting Rights Act is fresh in Ohioans’ minds — but so is the memory of Election Day 2004, when some voters waited in line up to 10 hours and perhaps more than 170,000 would-be voters left before casting a ballot.
“No one wants to see a replay of what happened here in Ohio in 2004,” said Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Chairman Stuart Garson. “That’s why we’re fighting to ensure Ohio doesn’t roll back the critical reforms that were made in the wake of that disastrous election.”