The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a crushing ruling on Tuesday for Ohio’s Democratic Party, which has been fighting to restore early voting days in the crucial swing state ahead of this November’s election.
A federal district court ordered the state in May to restore the early voting days eliminated over the last few years by the Republican-controlled legislature, calling the cuts “unconstitutional” and “unenforceable.” Tuesday’s 2–1 appellate court ruling overturns that decision, and will allow Ohio to cut what is known as “Golden Week” — the time when residents can register and vote on the same day.
The two judges on the panel who ruled for Ohio’s early voting cuts — both George W. Bush appointees — said they did so because courts should give deference to states in deciding how to run their elections instead of being “micromanagers.” They argued that even without Golden Week, Ohio’s early voting policy is “really quite generous,” and said the cuts pose “no such infringement” on the “fundamental right to vote.”
Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch dissented, calling her colleagues’ fears of micromanaging “unfounded and antiquated.” Stranch, who was appointed by President Obama, said that voting is such a basic right that it deserves extra attention from the courts. The early voting cut, she argued, “imposes a disproportionate burden on African Americans” and is “linked to social and historical conditions of discrimination that diminish the ability of African Americans to participate in the political process.”
Stranch referenced the ample evidence presented to the lower court thatGolden Week is disproportionately used by the state’s African American voters, and its elimination “results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters.” Tens of thousands of people voted during “Golden Week” in 2012 alone, more than enough to sway an election in the tightly contested swing state.
The District Court judge said Ohio’s cuts “will likely result in longer lines at the polls, thereby increasing the burdens for those who must wait in those lines and deterring voting.” Voting lines multiple hours long has been a particular problem in recent Ohio elections, and the cuts to early voting could worsen the situation.
The Ohio Democratic Party can ask the full 6th Circuit court to hear the case, or appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court, but time is running out for the state to create an early voting plan before the general election.
The head of Cleveland’s police union called Sunday for the suspension of open-carry gun laws in the city during the Republican National Convention.
Steve Loomis of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association cited theshooting death of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in urging the Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, to ban guns for the week.
“This is not an attack on the Second Amendment. This is not an attack on the right to open carry,” Loomis told NBC News. “We believe it is a reasonable request to protect the safety of our folks.”
A statement from Kasich’s office said he could not suspend the law.
“Law enforcement is a noble, essential calling and we all grieve that we’ve again seen attacks on officers,” the statement read.
“Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested. The bonds between our communities and police must be reset and rebuilt — as we’re doing in Ohio — so our communities and officers can both be safe. Everyone has an important role to play in that renewal.”
Loomis noted that guns are banned in a smaller “secure zone” near the Quicken Loans Arena, where the RNC gets underway on Monday, that is overseen by the U.S. Secret Service.
Loomis had been critical of the decision to allow open carry during the RNC even before the violence in Baton Rouge on Sunday.
It’s unclear how prevalent firearms will be as the convention gets underway. A gun-rights rally at one of the main protest sites on Sunday afternoon drew just two people, only one of whom was displaying a firearm.
Evangelical leaders’ favored 2016 candidate heads to the city hosting the RNC on Friday.
CLEVELAND — Ted Cruz is making an extra trip to Cleveland to address a closed-door meeting of influential conservative leaders this Friday ahead of the Republican National Convention, according to four people familiar with his plans.
Cruz will speak to a gathering of the Council for National Policy, a secretive group of conservative activists, many of whom backed the Texas senator in his failed presidential bid earlier this year.
The CNP is a nonprofit, but some of its members, including President Tony Perkins, who also serves as head of the Family Research Council, are part of a subgroup that had voted to endorse Cruz in hopes of uniting the conservative movement behind a single candidate in 2016, rather than splintering as it had in 2008 and 2012.
Republicans instead nominated Donald Trump, who performed well among evangelical voters but has struggled to sell himself to evangelical leaders, citing “Two Corinthians” in one speech and saying he hopes not to have to ask God “for much forgiveness.”
Cruz’s address, which his spokeswoman Catherine Frazier confirmed, comes at a pivotal moment for the conservative movement, only days ahead of the Republican convention where Trump is expected to be nominated.
The closed-door speech also represents a chance for Cruz to stay in the good graces of conservative leaders who could power a 2020 presidential run. Cruz has already agreed to speak at the nationally televised convention, even though he has yet to endorse Trump.
Trump has had a rocky relationship with evangelical leaders. In late June, as part of his outreach efforts, Trump held a meeting with 1,000 evangelical leaders in New York, some of whom are likely to attend the Council for National Policy meeting as well. After the meeting, eight of the religious leaders held a news conference, but none of them said they were ready to fully endorse Trump.
Still, Trump had appeared to be making some inroads following the New York meeting — until his silence for days following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down abortion restrictions in Texas. Trump’s lack of comments renewed questions about his devotion to social-conservative causes.
Then, in the past week, Trump began flirting with naming Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a Democrat, as his running mate. After Flynn said of the abortion issue last weekend that “women have to be able to choose,” conservative leaders, such as Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, said Flynn had “disqualified himself.”
Cruz will arrive in Cleveland as the RNC’s Rules Committee is scheduled to meet. That is where anti-Trump delegates are hoping to make a last stand to change party rules to allow delegates to vote against Trump. Frazier said Cruz plans to appear only at the CNP gathering, not at the RNC meetings.
On Monday and Tuesday, Republican officials met in Cleveland to write out the official party platform, including strict provisions against same-sex marriage and abortion.
Perkins, who sits on the RNC platform committee, could not be reached for comment.
But one influential CNP member said the fact that such provisions are in the GOP platform should help Trump’s cause.
“My take is support for Trump is solidifying,” the CNP member said. “I would imagine that would accelerate a bit now that the platform is in place.”
By SHANE GOLDMACHER
Over the last five years, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State has purged about 2 million inactive voters from its rolls. Civil rights groups have sued the state, arguing the purge violates federal voting laws. As the 2016 election draws closer, a new Reuters analysis finds that far more Democrats than Republicans are being purged in the state’s most populous counties.
In Ohio’s major cities, including Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, voters have been removed from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at about twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods. In some neighborhoods in Cincinnati with a high proportion of poor, African-American residents, as much as 10 percent of the voting population has been purged. Because Democratic voters have lower turnout rates for mid-term, off-year elections, they are at greater risk of being purged. Counties that backed President Obama in 2008 have had far more residents kicked off the rolls than counties that backed John McCain.
Under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly know as the “motor voter law,” states can only remove voters from the rolls if they request the removal, die, or move out of state. The law also demands the list maintenance program be nondiscriminatory. The American Civil Liberties Union argued in their lawsuit against the purge that stripping voters from the rolls simply for not voting in the past few elections is illegal.
Ohio Secretary of State John Husted countered that if voting was a “really important thing” for an individual, he or she “probably would have done so within a six-year period.”
Husted has also argued that the majority of those purged are dead or have left Ohio. “Voter rolls with deceased voters and people who’ve moved out-of-state have long contributed to the problems of voter fraud, long lines and discarded ballots,” he said. Yet Husted has spent years trying to find examples of voter fraud in Ohio and has come up with almost nothing. Last year, his office admitted that the rate of potential illegal voting was .0002 percent.
Ohio is just one of a small handful of states that remove voters from the rolls if they miss a couple elections. The state is currently fighting several other lawsuits over its voting laws, and just appealed a federal ruling that found their cuts to early voting days unconstitutional. The state may also implement an unprecedented policy that requires voters to put up a cash bond of tens of thousands of dollars in order to keep the polls open later during an election day emergency.
Ohio is a key swing state that could decide the 2016 election. Past contests in the state have been so close that the hundreds of voters purged from the rolls could mean the difference between a Republican or a Democrat in the White House next years. Voters who discover they have been purged can re-register up to 30 days before the general election.
In a victory for Ohio voters, a federal judge ordered the state’s Republican officials to stop enforcing a 2014 law that reduced voting times.
Since Republicans discovered that lower turnout helps their chances of winning elections – see 2010 and 2014 – they have made a widespread effort to make it harder for some Americans to cast their ballots.
A total of 22 states have enacted tough voter restrictions in the last six years, whether it’s cutting early voting hours or eliminating same-day registration. In 17 of those states, 2016 is the first year these strict laws will be in place for a presidential election.
Today, a Republican federal judge is hoping to hit the brakes on Republican efforts to restrict voting in at least one of those states: Ohio.
Federal Judge Michael Watson of Columbus said the restrictions – Senate Bill 238 – adversely impact African-American voters in the state. The judge called the law a violation of both the Consitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“The court finds that SB 238 results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters,” Watson said, according to a report by The Columbus Dispatch.
Watson ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans, must stop enforcing the reduced voting periods that GOP Gov. John Kasich signed into law in 2014.
A spokesperson for the attorney general said Watson’s ruling will be repealed, The Dispatch noted.
If the decision stands, Ohioans will be able to cast their ballots 35 days prior to this year’s general election, including the “Golden Week” when voters can register and vote on the same day.
In the event that the voting limitations are restored, the nearly 15,000 African-American voters who registered and voted on the same day in 2012 would be denied the same opportunity in 2016 – enough votes to turn a close election in one of the most pivotal swing states in the country.
Of course, turning a close election was the plan all along, wasn’t it?
For now, at least one state – a critical one – is protected from Republican efforts to suppress turnout to win elections.
In Ohio’s March 15 presidential primary, a car crash blocked a major highway near Cincinnati, leaving thousands of people stranded in their cars as the polls were set to close. A local judge received calls from voters frantic about losing their chance to cast a ballot, and ordered the polls to remain open just one hour later than scheduled. Now, a Cincinnati Republican is pushing a billto make sure it’s much more difficult, and expensive, to get such an emergency extension in the future.
If legislation sponsored by Republican State Senator Bill Seitz is approved, anyone petitioning a judge to extend voting hours would have to put up a cash bond to cover the cost, which could range in the tens of thousands of dollars. If a court later finds that the polls should not have remained open, the voter would forfeit all the money. Only those who are so poor they can be certified as indigent would be exempted.
Rep. Dan Ramos, a Democrat who represents the working class Lorain community, told ThinkProgress he finds the effort “sickening.”
“This has been par for the course, ever since the Republicans took control of the House. They’ve been trying to do everything they can to make it more difficult to vote,” he said, noting the state’s cuts to early voting hours,voter roll purges, and attempts to block some students from voting in the primaries. “Now they’re saying the only way a person can have access to courts for voting is if they’re a wealthy person.”
The bill is already gaining support in Ohio’s House and Senate, where Republicans hold majorities. The first hearing on it will be held this week. Though Seitz has said the purpose of the bill is to save taxpayers money, Ramos sees a partisan agenda.
“What types of places would be allowed to stay open? Only wealthy areas, where people tend to vote Republican,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of people in my district with that kind of cash laying around.”
Yet voting rights experts are reassuring Ohioans that the bill wouldn’t do too much damage even if it became law, since it only dictates the actions of state courts, and the vast majority of poll extension motions are filed in federal court. Gary Daniels with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio told ThinkProgress the measure is “unnecessary.”
“Making people pay a bond in order to ensure their voting rights are protected on election day is a further barrier to voting in Ohio, of which we already have plenty,” he said. “People can debate whether a particular extension is frivolous or not. But it seems like overkill to completely blow up the system. I’m worried that what simply is going to happen is that people won’t go to court to file these motions.”
Daniels added that he has seen polling extensions requested due to a number of unexpected problems, from internet outages to poorly trained poll workers to extension cords that are too short for the voting machines to reach the room’s outlets. “It’s never the fault of the voter, but this bill says that you, the voter, have to pay for this,” he said.
This November, the swing state of Ohio could tip the scales and decide the presidency. Since 2008, when some Ohio voters waited 10 hours to cast a ballot, the state’s Republican leadership has passed an array of new voting restrictions, some of which are being challenged in court for suppressing voters of color. One of those legal challenges succeeded last year in restoring some of the Sunday and evening early voting hours the administration had slashed, but Ramos says more efforts are needed.
“We want to make sure everyone who wants to vote can vote, and participate in a way that fits the reality of their economic circumstances,” he said. “The Great Recession is not yet over in Ohio. Lots of people working two or three jobs to survive, and these are not nice white collar job like we legislators have. I can take an hour in the middle of the day to go vote, but most people can’t do that.”
Ramos introduced a bill in March to expand the number of early voting sites so that one is available for every 60,000 residents. Currently, some counties have just one open site to accommodate more than a million residents.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) remains devoted to receiving Syrian refugees and feels they aren’t nearly as big a threat to the United States as another group of people.
“Normally, they look more like me than they look like Middle Easterners,” Brown told Ohio’s WAKR radio. “They are generally white males, who have shot up people in movie theaters and schools.”
Listen below to the full interview with Brown:
White men account for more mass murder cases than radical Islamists in the U.S., according to a Duke Study released in June. Shortly after the shootings in Charleston, S.C. where a white-supremacist entered a black church and killed nine people, a handful of senators pushed for hearings on domestic terrorism.
Out of 750,000 refugees resettled in the U.S., none have tried to commit a terrorist attack on American soil. Two Iraqis and one Uzbek were convicted of trying to plan activities in their native countries.
After a Syrian passport was found at the scene of the Paris attacks though, American governorsrallied to block Syrian refugees — even though a top EU official said that all the attackers identified were European passport holders and the Syrian passport was likely fake.
Ohio’s GOP governor was the darling of the right — until he sought to help poor people, in the name of Christ
Could Republican Gov. John Kasich run for president? According to the Washington Post, he’s poised to, and he certainly seems to be among the better options out there, with the other obvious choices either clearly deranged (Ted Cruz) or totally uninterested (Mitt Romney). But conservatives have not been roundly pleased with Kasich, in part because he is evidently something of a committed Christian.
Last year, Kasich fought doggedly to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio, extending healthcare to some 275,000 poor people. When queried as to why a conservative would push for expanded coverage, Kasich explained his reasoning thus:
“I had a conversation with one of the members of the legislature the other day. I said, ‘I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do, too. I also know that you’re a person of faith. Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.’ ”
Conservative critics did not have a good answer. If Kasich’s challenge required a faith-based, well-reasoned critique of Medicaid to defend Republican animus, that wasn’t what it received. Instead, Kasich’s right-wing opponents produced a series of attacks that seemed straight out of the Richard Dawkins school of rhetoric. At RedState, for instance, Jason Hart complained that “Kasich leaned heavily on his Christian faith to push the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” and glossed over Kasich’s explanation of his Christian reasoning as: “anyone who opposes Medicaid expansion will have to answer for their opposition when they die.”
Of course, Kasich didn’t suggest that anyone who opposes Medicaid expansion will have to answer for such at the pearly gates; he merely pointed out that, at this point in time, Medicaid expansion is the only option for extending healthcare coverage to poor people in Ohio, making it the most sensible Christian option. Were there other options – that is, if Republicans had some small-government program that resulted in equal or better coverage – Kasich’s argument would fall out in favor of that. But as it stands no such substitute exists. It’s notable that misrepresenting Kasich’s Christian defense of Medicaid expansion remains a popular smear. Consider the National Review’s Avik Roy:
Shorter John Kasich: Obamacare is bad, but expanding single-payer healthcare in Ohio is awesome; if you disagree, you hate Jesus.
Roy’s lie is as glib as it is lazy, suggesting two simultaneous pathologies: first, that conservatives have mostly given up on an actual faith-based critique of extending healthcare coverage to poor people; second, that unless Christianity is acting as a helpful crutch to prop up libertarian fiscal policies, it’s more or less a joke.
True to form, the Wall Street Journal had an absolute field day making fun of Kasich’s Christian reasoning. “Believe it or not, there are still a few disciples with faith in an ObamaCare higher power,” the article titled “Medicaid and the Apostle Kasich” opens, and the faith-themed snark just rolls on from there. Both theologically tone-deaf and redolent with Hitchensian disdain of Christian thought, the piece sneers that Kasich “really must feel like he’s guided by the Holy Spirit” (perish the thought!), and sniffs that Kasich’s “government-as-thy-brother’s-keeper riff needs some moral fine-tuning.” But the most damning line is the last: “Republicans get a vote before St. Peter does.”
It seems this is where Kasich and his critics depart: For the governor, and for any faithful Christian, Christian ethics precede party politics. For some time the line from Christian politicians like Paul Ryan has been that their faith inspires their political affiliation, not vice versa. But the response of various conservative venues to a Christian argument that, while theologically orthodox and sensible, nonetheless reverses a cherished partisan position, suggests another situation of priorities.
Kasich’s sin is to present a vision of fiscal conservatism that is limited rather than necessitated by Christian ethics. His argument, despite what Roy, Hart and the Wall Street Journal would present, is actually sophisticated: He points out that Christian doctrine directly requires the consideration of the poor ahead of the interests of profit. It is not that Christian doctrine has traditionally held that any profit from business is wrong (though more radical strands have moved in that direction), but that excess wealth has generally been viewed by Christian authorities as acceptable only insofar as the needs of the most vulnerable have been met. This is foundational, ancient Christian teaching, ranging from the earliest church fathers to the medieval scholars and into the modern day.
Naturally, Kasich’s critics don’t bother to attempt a reversal on theological grounds. Instead they suggest, pace Hart, that there is some small-government solution directly at hand that Kasich has ignored. Yet they have roundly failed to produce it. If you could link to a policy proposal that better accomplishes the goal of ensuring the poor healthcare coverage, why sneer about “hating Jesus” instead?
Because, it seems, the comedy of Christian sentiment opposed to conservative dogma is rote among right-wingers. Conservatives are smart to saturate airwaves with turf wars over social issues, wherein they’re more than happy to prop up Christian views; but Christian voters should be wary of the swiftness and viciousness with which conservatives seem prepared to dismiss even perfectly solid Christian reasoning altogether when it no longer suits them. If party policy is that the interests of the GOP precede the interests of the Prince of Peace, there’s not much room for negotiation.
The Supreme Court said early voting cutbacks in Ohio can go into effect on Monday, reversing an order by a federal judge to block the state’s restrictive voting law.
The Court’s decision came within one day of when Ohioans would have been able to head to the polls to cast their ballots in the 2014 midterm elections.
The Supreme Court’s decision to reverse the injunction — which was upheld by an appeals court last week — was divided 5-4 along ideological lines. The request was submitted to Justice Elena Kagan, who turned the matter to the full court.
The next step is for the lower courts to consider whether the Ohio law is valid on the merits.
The circuit judges agreed that the restrictions run afoul of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The law, enacted earlier this year, scaled back early voting in the Buckeye State from 35 days to 28 days and scrapped “Golden Week,” when residents could both register and vote in the same week.
From here the state of Ohio can either seek a full court — en banc — ruling at the 6th Circuit or appeal to the Supreme Court.
“With the press of time, it is not clear that Ohio is going to bother to try to change this for this election,” wrote election law professor Rick Hasen of UC-Irvine. “But if and when this case gets to the Supreme Court, I expect 5 Justices could well adopt a much narrower definition of equal protection and the Voting Rights Act than offered here.”