Ohio must allow in-person voting 3 days before Election Day, court rules

Published: Friday, October 05, 2012 @ 9:30 PM
Updated: Friday, October 05, 2012 @ 9:30 PM

Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote or to update your voter registration for the Nov. 6. Local board of elections offices and the Ohio Secretary of State will be open until 9 p.m. that day to accept new and updated registrations. Addresses can be updated online at www.MyOhioVote.com.

The U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated in-person early voting in Ohio on the three days before the Nov. 6 General Election, handing the Obama campaign, Democrats and voting rights advocates what they see as a major victory. Local county elections boards will decide what office hours to add.

The Sixth Circuit court rules that a 2011 Ohio law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment. That law allowed in-person early voting on the three days prior to the election for military and overseas voters only.

“As a result of this decision, every voters, including military, veterans and overseas voters alongside all Ohioans, will have the same opportunity to vote early through the weekend and Monday before the election,” said Bob Bauer, general counsel for the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

In July the Obama campaign and state and national Democratic parties sued Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to reinstate the in-person voting rules that had been in place since 2005 in response to long lines on Election Day. Friday’s ruling could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“My office is reviewing today’s decision by the court as we determine the best course of action moving forward,” Husted said in a news release issued Friday. “On Monday we will make a determination on how to proceed legally and provide administrative guidance to Ohio’s boards of elections.”

Rob Scott, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, said he supports Husted’s efforts to get uniformity across the state in voting hours.

“We still fully support that and support it going forward,” Scott said.

Husted’s directive that all counties have the same hours for early voting led to his firing in August of former Montgomery County Board of Elections members Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr.

Lieberman and Ritchie’s lawsuit over the firing is pending before U.S. District Judge Walter H. Rice and could be impacted by Friday’s appeals court ruling because it raises similar constitutional issues, said Montgomery County Board of Elections Deputy Director Steve Harsman.

“I do think it doesn’t hurt our case in any way,” Lieberman said. “It is an exciting ruling and I think it is great for our community.”

The court granted local county boards of election discretion to determine what, if any, early voting hours they will have on the three days prior to the election — which is contrary to Husted’s directive that voting hours be uniform statewide.

“It’s a big victory and it certainly puts the matter back in the laps of the board of elections,” said Ellis Jacobs, of the Miami Valley Voter Protection Coalition, which is a member of the Ohio Fair Elections Network.

“All the members of boards should vote to extend voting hours for all voters on those last three days,” Jacobs said. “(The network) is calling on Husted not to appeal it and to announce that if called on to break any tiebreaker he will vote on expanding hours to all voters, military and non-military alike.”

Evidence showed that an estimated 105,000 Ohio voters cast ballots in person on the last three days before the presidential election in 2008, according to the court.

The court ruling said, “Plaintiffs introduced extensive evidence that a significant number of Ohio voters will in fact be precluded from voting without the additional three days of in-person early voting.”

“While we readily acknowledge the need to provide military voters more time to vote, we see no corresponding justification for giving others less time,” the court ruled.

The court ruled that the state did not prove the extra hours would be overly burdensome for boards.

It’s not clear what local boards will do as local officials said they will need to see what their board members decide. Harsman said he will recommend that the hours be expanded to that weekend to reduce long lines on Election Day.

“I think this is a good thing for the citizens of Montgomery County based on the popularity,” Harsman said.

Steve Quillen, director of the Miami County board said his employees are too busy getting ready for Election Day and he will recommend against weekend hours. He said voters have plenty of opportunities to vote in person or by mail, along with casting ballots on Election Day.

“They have 35 days to vote. It’s not like rocket science,” Quillen said.

Warren County board director Kim Antrican said she does not believe having voting on the three days prior to the Nov. 6 election will be a problem for her staff. “It’s just one more thing we have to do,” she said.

Clark County Board of Elections Director Matthew Tlachac said the issue will likely be discussed at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the board of elections meeting and Butler County’s Deputy Director Jocelyn Bucaro said the board also will likely decide what to do next week.

Bob Hamilton, chairman of the Champaign County Democratic Party, said the board will likely vote on the issue during its meeting Oct. 18. The additional voting days might present an extra challenge due to the additional work and hectic schedule, but Hamilton said increasing access to the polls is usually a good idea.

“My thought is we want to be open as much as possible for the public if the rest of the board agrees to that,” he said.

Staff writers Tiffany Y. Latta, Matt Sanctis and Ed Richter contributed to this story.

Lawmakers: Medicaid should cover pediatric drug addiction services

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 12:04 PM
Updated: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 12:04 PM


            Lawmakers: Medicaid should cover pediatric drug addiction services. Photo by Chris Stewart
Lawmakers: Medicaid should cover pediatric drug addiction services. Photo by Chris Stewart

Ohio’s two senators are introducing a bill aimed at helping newborns born addicted recover in a supportive setting.

Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Rob Portman, R-Ohio along with Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and Angus King, I-Maine, have reintroduced a bill that would recognize allow Medicaid to cover pediatric drug addiction recovery services in both hospitals and residential pediatric recovery facilities.

SPECIAL PROJECT: Addicted at birth

The bill - which costs taxpayers nothing - would allow babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome - or withdrawal - to receive quality care in residential facilities. The syndrome is a withdrawal condition often caused by use of opioids and other addictive substances in pregnant women.

In the House, Reps. Tim Ryan, Niles, Mike Turner, R-Dayton and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., have introduced a companion bill.

Among the facilities currently treating babies born with withdrawal is Brigid’s Path, in Dayton.

Traditionally, babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome have been treated in the neonatal intensive care unit, where treatment costs are more than five times the cost of treating other newborns. The lawmakers say that the NICU - with its bright lights and loud noises - is not the ideal place for babies suffering from withdrawal. Residential pediatric recovery facilities, they argue, offer an alternative more conducive to treating newborns with the syndrome.

Portman said the Ohio Department of Health estimates roughly 84 babies are being treated for drug withdrawal in Ohio hospitals every day.

RELATED: More help aimed at helping babies, mothers

“We must ensure that Ohio moms and babies have access to residential treatment facilities that specialize in giving them the specific kind of care they need and at a lower cost to taxpayers,” said Brown.

In 2015, the Ohio Department of Health released data that there had been 2,174 hospital admissions for neonatal abstinence syndrome, and reported that an average of 84 infants were being treated for drug withdrawal by Ohio hospitals every day.

Longtime Ohio congressman dies

Published: Thursday, July 20, 2017 @ 10:44 AM
Updated: Thursday, July 20, 2017 @ 10:44 AM

Ralph Regula. Getty Images
Ralph Regula. Getty Images

Former Congressman Ralph Regula, who represented the Canton region for nearly 40 years, died yesterday at 92.

He served in Congress from 1973-2009. At the time, he was the second longest serving Republican member of the House.

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“I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend, colleague and mentor,” U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci said today. Renacci, now a candidate for governor, has served in the same seat since 2011. “He was a remarkable man whose tenure spanned seven United States presidents.”

Regula was ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor Health, Human Services and Education.

RELATED: Regula opposed renaming Mt. McKinley

He was a lawyer, Navy veteran and served in the Ohio General Assembly.

Regula and his wife Mary have three children.

Secretary of State Jon Husted called Regula a “devoted public servant and leader.” “From his days at the Ohio Statehouse to his many years on Capitol Hill, Ralph set a standard for service and dignity that we should all aspire to achieve,” said Husted, also a Republican candidate for governor. “In addition to being a model public servant, he was also a devoted husband and father. Tina and I send our thoughts and prayers to his family at this time.”

Ohio Patrol cracking down on distracted driving this week; state considering higher fines

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 3:08 PM
Updated: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 @ 5:45 PM

Distracted driving

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is cracking down on distracting driving with a special effort through July 22.

This is part of a six-state project which includes all of the states that border Ohio. 

“Distracted driving is a reckless and dangerous behavior,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride in a statement. “If you’re behind the wheel, you need to be completely focused on driving. The Ohio State Highway Patrol and our law enforcement partners in our neighboring states know the devastating effects of distracted driving.”

RELATED: Ohio considering major changes for teen drivers

Driving while distracted could cost you an extra $100 if you are pulled over for speeding or another moving violation under a bill the Ohio House of Representatives approved last month.

The law goes beyond driving while texting and State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, says it goes too far because it also covers talking on the phone, switching radio stations and other distractions beyond texting.

“To me, its overly expansive. Its not just texting while driving. It’s everything,” Antani said.

“While cracking down on distracted driving is important, this bill will criminalize talking on the phone while driving which is terrible government overreach.”

The bill passed 71-10 but would not become law unless approved by the Ohio Senate and signed by the governor.

The bill is co-sponsored by State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, and State Rep. Jim Hughes, R-Upper Arlington. It covers moving violations such as speeding, running red lights, disobeying any traffic devices, driving too slowly, improper lane changes and other offenses.

RELATED: Teens involved in more crashes in summer months

“Inspired from previous efforts to bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving, Rep. Hughes worked in coordination with the Ohio Department of Public Safety to draft legislation to create this enhanced penalty, which would not add points to an individual’s driver’s license and would not go on their driving record,” according to a news release on Hughes’ website.

“The enhanced penalty for distracted driving as proposed in House Bill 95 will help provide a deterrent to this reckless and dangerous activity,” Hughes said. “Ultimately, the goal is to save lives by making our roadways safer.”

A person could only be cited for “distracted driving” if the law enforcement officer witnesses the offense while the moving violation is occurring, according to the bill.

In lieu of the fine an offender may instead attend distracted driving safety courses, according to a summary of the bill by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

The bill defines “distracted” as:

- Using a handheld electronic wireless communications device - including phones, tablets and computers - except when it is on speakerphone or otherwise hands-free.

- Any activity “that is not necessary to the operation of a vehicle” and could or does impair the driver.

Renacci wins poll held at We the People Convention

Published: Friday, July 14, 2017 @ 7:40 AM

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci won a Republican poll in the governor’s race conducted after the We the People Convention near Columbus last month.

More than 300 tea party and liberty groups attended the event and heard from candidates Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Hused and Renacci. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor did not attend the event.

Among the attendees, Renacci won nearly 62 percent in the poll. Husted was at 23 percent and DeWine at 15 percent.

Renacci is trying to establish himself as the candidate in the race for governor most in line with President Donald Trump. Several key operatives from Trump’s Ohio campaign have signed on with the congressman. Kettering Vice Mayor Rob Scott, who was deputy campaign manager for Trump in Ohio last year, is serving as an advisor to Renacci. Andrew Tobias at Cleveland.com is reporting that several others have also joined the team.

Tom Zawistowski, the president of the convention said in a release “I would not have predicted that Congressman Renacci would win by such a large margin, since many if not most of the attendees were meeting him for the first time.”

The primary for governor is set for May 2018.