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Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 @ 10:00 AM
COLUMBUS — Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has a New Year’s resolution he wants to see Ohioans make: register online to vote.
And that can goal can be completed as soon as the Times Square Ball completes its New Year’s Eve descent.
“It’s another positive step in trying to improve elections in America,” said Husted. “So when it strikes midnight, raise your glass in champagne, give a toast and register to vote.”
Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 63 this past summer, which authorizes the state to implement online voter registration, and it will be live at midnight on Jan. 1 on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.
“It eliminates another excuse for not voting,” he said. “Nobody can say it’s too hard. You don’t have to leave home to participate in Ohio democracy now.”
Ohio is now one of 38 states, plus the District of Columbia, to move toward online voter registration, but seven states — which includes Ohio until New Year’s Day — have yet to implement it.
Husted wanted to see online registration be in place for this past November’s general election, but despite the secretary’s objections the General Assembly chose to launch it on Jan. 1 — after the 2016 presidential election.
Butler County Board of Elections Deputy Director Jocelyn Bucaro sees a “fairly minimal” impact on local boards of elections.
“I don’t think the processes will change that much in what we’ve been doing the last four years with the online change of address,” she said. “It all happens at the push of the button.”
HOW IT WORKS
Though nearly a dozen states did not require legislation to authorize online voter registration, Ohio needed it because state law requires a signature on a voter registration form, said Husted. That’s where the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles enters the process.
SB 63 allows the Secretary of State to compare a person’s driver’s license or state-issued identification number maintained by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. State law needed to change to permit that communication, Husted said.
When someone goes online to register — which Husted said a link will be prominent on the Secretary of State’s homepage — they’ll fill out the form and click submit. The form will be sent from the Secretary of State to the appropriate county board of elections.
“We can complain about government, but we have one opportunity to determine who’s going to govern us from the presidency to the city council and township trustees, and we get to determine how high our property taxes will be and whether or not we should approve a fire or policy levy,” Husted said.
This is the third significant online voter information tool Husted’s office has launched since 2012. The MyOhioVote.com page launched in 2012 and the online voter toolkit launched in 2015. All of this, Husted said, makes it “so much more efficient and simpler and help build confidence in the system.”
Of all the tools, the online change of address system implemented in August 2012 has been the most successful. It’s been used by nearly 460,000 voters, which Husted said means there were that many fewer provisional ballots because people would have been registered at an old address. And accurate voter information is important, he said, because elections do come down to a single vote.
Over the past three years, 112 elections in Ohio were decided by a single vote or ended up being tied. Tied votes on issues mean the issue fails — and that happened twice in this past November’s election. A Marlboro Twp. tax levy in Delaware County and an Akron local liquor option in Summit county tied and failed.
“Democracy works but you got to participate,” Husted said.
HOW MUCH WILL IT SAVE?
Ohio’s political parties have robust voter registration efforts, and Husted believes they’ll be important in pushing online registration. Since the launch is in an odd-year election, a year where local and non-partisan city council, school board and township trustee races are decided, there won’t be a significant jump, Husted said.
But the more online voter registrations that are processed, the more money that will saved. Projections show that millions of dollars could have been saved if it was enacted when Husted took office in 2011. Depending on the lowest and highest cost savings, between $4 million and $17 million could have been saved.
While cost savings are only projections and estimates at this point, a Pew Charitable Trusts study showed that Arizona experienced an 80 cent per registration reduction when that state opened up to online voter registration. Other states have experienced a similar cost savings in processing registrations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Bucaro believes there will be cost savings down the road, but how much exactly “is hard to quantify.”
While staffing changes are not imminent, Bucaro said the real cost savings will be when less staff is needed for processing voter registration forms, “which will save us a lot of money.”
“It will certainly make processing registrations easier,” Bucaro said.
WHAT THE PARTIES HAVE TO SAY
Republicans and Democrats both appreciate the news voting tool as voter registration is a year-round initiative.
“As technology is inserted into every aspect of our lives, we look forward to expanding our voter registration reach by utilizing online voter registration,” said Brittany Warner, Ohio GOP communications director. “We never stop our push to register Republican votes and will be using the online technology when it becomes available to continue to build upon the large influx on new GOP voters from 2016.”
Warner said the GOP added 1 million new registered Republican voters in the 2016 primary.
Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis said while this is a welcomed evolution in Ohio voting, “Unfortunately, that leaves out a lot of seniors, young people, college students and lower-income Ohioans from being able to take advantage of online voter registration.”
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 10:08 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 6:35 AM
— Those ready for spring weather likely won’t like this forecast.
A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for Darke, Preble, Montgomery, Wayne, Randolph, Butler, Warren and Clinton counties from 2 a.m. Saturday through 2 a.m.Sunday. A Winter Storm Watch means conditions are favorable for impactful snow, sleet or ice that can make travel difficult.
A quick-moving low pressure system will spread moisture back into the Miami Valley Saturday and Saturday night, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini. A band of snow will be possible that, at times, might mix with rain. The system currently is favoring the southern and western half of the Miami Valley where the watch was issued. This means areas such as Logan, Shelby, Auglaize and Mercer counties could see a sharp cut-off from moisture and possibly very little, if any, snow.
The track and intensity of this system is still in question, and fine-tuning will come together during the end of the work week. Counties under the Winter Storm Watch have the best chance to see sticking snow that will could be more than two inches.
A few factors that could limit impact in the Miami Valley: Warm road temperatures allowing for snow melt, snow falling during the day allowing for a mix with rain, the track shifting and pulling the accumulating snow further south.
A few factors that could increase impact in the Miami Valley: Staying colder than expected, a shift further north could spread more snow across the entire area and the intensity of the system.
Stay with Storm Center 7 for the latest updates to this spring snow storm.
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 4:03 AM
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia woman was found covered in cockroaches and maggots, bedridden on a sheet smeared in feces, a police report says.
Her caretakers and family members, 54-year-old Terry Ward Sorrells and 18-year-old Christian Alexander Sorrells, have both been charged with neglect of a disabled adult or elder person.
Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services responded to the Sugar Hill home where the woman lived with Terry Sorrells and Christian Sorrells on March 15 after receiving a call for medical assistance. The woman was unresponsive but still alive, the report says.
The AJC is not identifying the woman because she is an alleged victim of neglect.
When the fire crew arrived, they said they saw that maggots and roaches were eating the woman’s flesh and her legs were “completely black and showing signs of decomposition.” They had transported her a month earlier with a “mega mover” — a tarp-like object used by emergency medical technicians to move obese patients — and she was sitting on the same mega mover, now “completely brown and black” and covered in feces. The fire crew called police because “they did not believe she would live much longer and felt a moral obligation to report this,” the report says.
The living conditions inside the home on Pine Tree Circle were “deplorable,” the responding officer said in his report. The officer was “overwhelmed with the smell of human feces and garbage” when he walked into the house, and roaches were crawling on the walls and ceiling of “every single room,” the report says. Garbage lined the floor from the entryway to the kitchen, and covered the floor of the bathroom. In Terry Sorrells’ bedroom, there was a two-foot-high pile of empty Monster energy drink cans, with garbage piled in a closet and covering a dresser, the report says.
Terry Sorrells had gone with the woman in an ambulance before the officer arrived, but Christian Sorrells remained at the house. He told the officer that the woman had been bedridden for one or two years and had been progressively getting worse; she had been admitted into a long-term care facility, but returned home after Medicaid would not cover the cost, the report says. Christian Sorrells also told the officer that no one in the house worked.
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 7:13 AM
ATLANTA — He makes a living with his skateboard and his brand, but this month Justin Mallory said that’s exactly what got him in trouble.
Mallory claims he was kicked off a flight out of Atlanta because of his business logo on his shirt which features guns.
“I was flabbergasted. I was taken aback,” Mallory said.
The professional skateboarder said he was kicked off a Frontier Airlines flight because of the logo.
“The shirt is just a graphic,” Mallory told Wilfon.
He said the airline said the shirt made another passenger uncomfortable.
Mallory’s lawyer, Mawuli Davis, calls it discrimination.
“The shirt, some would say he’s dressed in a hip-hop fashion, and he’s African-American. Those three things may have all contributed to the discrimination and profiling against him,” Davis said.
Frontier Airlines tells a much different story.
In a statement to WSB, the airline indicated Mallory’s shirt and race had nothing to do with it.
Frontier said Mallory “became argumentative prior to boarding when asked to check a skateboard. The passenger boarded the aircraft and continued to exhibit disruptive behavior.”
“That’s totally false,” Mallory told Wilfon.
Because he was kicked off the flight, Mallory said he missed a skateboarding trade show where he planned to promote his brand.
Instead, he said it got him in trouble.
“It was a terrible situation. It was embarrassing. I don’t want to see it happen to anyone else. I wouldn’t wish it on someone,” Mallory said.
Mallory and his lawyer told Wilfon they are considering a lawsuit.
A professional skateboarder says this shirt got him kicked off a Frontier flight out of Atlanta. Tonight, we’ve received a statement from the airline as well. Hear from both sides, at 11. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/Ptu2fnAkhV— Justin Wilfon (@JustinWilfonWSB) March 22, 2018
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 7:10 AM
The state of Ohio has told the group that wants to redevelop the Fire Blocks District that it has until June 30 to prove it has financing for the project or its tax credits may be rescinded.
The Ellway Group won nearly $4.5 million in state historic preservation tax credits in June 2016 to help fund the restoration of the Elks Building and the Huffman Block building on the 100 block of East Third Street.
The development group’s $23 million plan was to create new housing and first-floor retail and restaurant spaces in the mostly vacant buildings.
But this month, the Ohio Development Services Agency sent a letter to Ellway Group CEO Winfield Scott Gibson saying his project has not demonstrated “sufficient evidence of reviewable progress” because the has not closed on financing, according to a copy of the letter obtained by this newspaper through a public records request.
Tax credit recipients risk losing their awards if they fail to show after 18 months that they have secured financing for their proposed rehab projects and have not commenced construction. It’s been about 21 months since the project received its award.
Last month, Gibson sent the state a letter asking to push back the project’s end date until March 31, 2019, saying there were delays related to finding a tax credit investor and securing financing, according to records obtained by this newspaper.
Tax credit recipients must file a 12- or 18-month progress report on their projects with the state.
In the letter, Gibson said project construction financing is expected to close in June and construction should begin on May 1. The state agreed to a short time extension to allow the Ellway Group to secure financing and start construction.
But if that does not happen by the end of June, the Ohio Development Services Agency said it may rescind the approved tax credits and give them away to other projects in upcoming funding rounds.
Gibson told this newspaper that it’s “going to be tight” but he believes his group will close on financing in time to meet the deadline. He also said he has a back-up plan if the project were to lose its state historic tax credits and had to be scrapped — but he says he really hopes it does not come to that.
“The plan is the plan and we’re moving forward,” he said.