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Why does Ohio purge voters?: 5 things to know about Supreme Court case

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 10:27 AM
Updated: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 10:27 AM

Thousands of Ohio residents have been removed from Ohio’s voter rolls because they didn’t vote in some elections.
Thousands of Ohio residents have been removed from Ohio’s voter rolls because they didn’t vote in some elections.

Thousands of Ohio residents have been removed from Ohio’s voter rolls because they didn’t vote in some elections. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Jan. 10 in the disputed practice, which generally pits Democrats against Republicans.

The case has taken on added importance because the parties have squared off over ballot access across the country. Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to suppress votes from minorities and poorer people who tend to vote for Democrats. Republicans have argued that they are trying to promote ballot integrity and prevent voter fraud. Only a handful of states use a process similar to Ohio’s, but others could join in if the high court sides with the state.

Here’s what you need to know about the case:

President Trump supports Ohio’s actions

Adding to the mix, the Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration and is now backing Ohio’s method for purging voters.

Ohio has used the process for a while

Ohio has used voters’ inactivity to trigger the removal process since 1994, although groups representing voters did not sue the Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, until 2016. As part of the lawsuit, a judge last year ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.

RELATED: Supreme Court to hear arguments on Ohio voter purge

A federal appeals court panel in Cincinnati split 2-1 last year in ruling that Ohio’s process is illegal. In May, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

How do you get removed from voting rolls?

Under Ohio rules, registered voters who fail to vote in a two-year period are targeted for eventual removal from registration rolls, even if they haven’t moved and remain eligible. The state says it removes names only after local election boards send notices and there’s no subsequent voting activity for the next four years. Ohio argues this helps ensure election security.

“It’s important for us to keep up-to-date, accurate voter logs,” said Aaron Sellers, a spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections in Ohio’s largest county.

The main argument on behalf of voters whose registrations were canceled is that federal voting law specifically prohibits states from using voter inactivity to trigger purges. The state “purges registered voters who are still eligible to vote,” former and current Ohio elections officials said in a brief supporting the voters.

Supreme Court often splits on these types of cases

At the Supreme Court, voting cases often split the court’s liberal and conservative justices. Civil rights groups contend that a decision for Ohio would have widespread implications because there is a “nationwide push to make it more difficult and costly to vote,” as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund told the court. A dozen mainly Democratic states also want the Supreme Court to declare that Ohio’s system violates federal law.

Ohio is not the only state that purges voters

Ohio, backed by 17 other mostly Republican states, said it is complying with federal law. The state, where Republicans have controlled the secretary of state’s office for all but four years since 1991, said it first compares its voter lists with a U.S. Postal Service list of people who have reported a change of address. The problem, the state said, is that some people move without notifying the post office.

So the state asks people who haven’t voted in two years to confirm their eligibility. If they do, or if they show up to vote over the next four years, voters remain registered. If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters.

The Trump administration said the practice complies with federal law because people are not removed from the rolls “by reason of their initial failure to vote.” They are sent a notice, the administration said in its Supreme Court brief, but only removed if “they fail to respond and fail to vote” in the elections that follow the notice.

A decision in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, 16-980, is expected by late June.

- By Julie Carr Smyth and Mark Sherman, AP

Democrat Kucinich picks running mate in Ohio governor’s race

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 2:04 PM
Updated: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 2:04 PM

Dennis Kucinich, the newest candidate to announce a bid for Ohio governor, said Akron City Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples would run with him as he seeks the Democratic nomination. PROVIDED
Dennis Kucinich, the newest candidate to announce a bid for Ohio governor, said Akron City Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples would run with him as he seeks the Democratic nomination. PROVIDED

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich on Friday chose Akron City Councilwoman Tara Samples as his running mate in his bid for Ohio governor.

Samples fills out the field of lieutenant governor candidates in the 2018 race to replace Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is term limited.

Kucinich, 71, on Wednesday announced his decision to run in the Democratic primary.

RELATED: Kucinich launches governor bid

Samples was elected to council in 2013, works as is a paralegal and is a former court bailiff and U.S. Postal Service employee, according to the Associated Press. Speaking at his news conference in Akron, Kucinich said Samples is a highly regarded community leader, volunteer and political activist and he called it the honor of his life to stand beside her, according to AP.

Kucinich and Samples join a crowded field of Democrats in the May 8 primary. They are Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with his running mate, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron; former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati and her running mate, Marion Mayor Scott Shertzer; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, and his running mate Ohio Board of Education member Stephanie Dodd; and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, whose running mate is Chantelle E. Lewis, a Lorain elementary school principal.

Kucinich says state must stop giving tax breaks to wealthy

Candidates on the Republican side are Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate Secretary of State Jon Husted, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and running mate, Nathan Estruth , a Cincinnati businessman.

The filing deadline for the race is Feb. 7.

OTHER STORIES BY LYNN HULSEY

Lawmaker Jeff Rezabek won’t run for re-election to Ohio House

Losers appeal Ohio medical pot licensing decisions

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 12:52 PM
Updated: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 12:52 PM

What to know about the legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio

State officials are scrambling to hold more than 60 appeal hearings for companies that did not win medical marijuana cultivator licenses in Ohio.

So far, 68 of the 161 rejected applicants have filed for a “119 hearing,” in which a hearing officer listens to the state and the business present their cases on why the licensing decision should stand or be reversed. The window is still open for more rejected companies to request hearings.

“We are just in the process of getting them all scheduled,” said Ohio Department of Commerce spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski. She added that the hearing she attended lasted two hours and the applicant was a no-show.

Late last year, the state awarded 24 cultivator licenses — a dozen small scale and a dozen large scale.

After the hearing, administrative hearing officers give their recommendation on what should happen. If the applicants don’t like the outcome, their next legal remedy is to file a lawsuit against the state.

Related: Controversy, legal threats mar medical pot launch

Ohio voters in November 2015 rejected a ballot issue to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. State lawmakers, though, adopted a law making medical marijuana legal in 2016. Regulators spent 2016 and 2017 establishing rules and reviewing applications from those who want licenses to grow, process, test and dispense medical marijuana.

Not everyone is happy with the process, particularly some who failed to win cultivator licenses.

Related: State auditor: Drug dealer scored applications for Ohio pot sites

Related: Should Ohio legalize recreational marijuana? Voters may decide in 2018

The Ohio Department of Commerce vigorously defended the process used to pick winners and losers, saying applicants had to clear the initial requirements in five areas before moving on to the second level of scoring.

Identifying information was removed so scorers didn’t know the players behind each proposal, according to the department. And no one scorer passed judgment on all segments of an application.

Kucinich enters governor’s race with call to “reclaim” the state and bring back Democrats who voted for Trump

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 11:36 AM
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 5:36 PM

Kucinich says state must stop giving tax breaks to wealthy

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich told local Democrats that it is time to reclaim Ohio and start spending state resources on things that help everyone rather than tax cuts for the wealthy.

“I’m in the position to get in the game and say, ‘Look, this changes. We have to be fair to all Ohioans,’” said Kucinich, speaking to the South Dayton Democratic Club on Wednesday after announcing he is running for governor in the Democratic primary.

“We can’t meet our health care needs, our education needs, we cannot rebuild this state if all we’re doing is taking resources of the state and giving it to a select few that already is very wealthy.”

Kucinich, a former mayor of Cleveland, announced he would join the already-crowded Democratic field during a Wednesday rally at Middleburg Heights in Cuyahoga County.

He pledged to focus on fighting poverty and violence and to promote economic opportunity the arts and education, according to the Associated Press.

Later he traveled to Columbus and then spoke to the South Dayton Democratic Club at the West Carrollton branch of the Dayton Metro Library. 

Kucinich outlined his plans to raise the minimum wage, improve infrastructure and establish a non-profit broadband internet public utility.

“I could win this election. I may be the only Democrat who can win because I have the ability to reach out, because I don’t polarize. Because I know the aspirations of people without regard to party,” Kucinich said during an interview after he spoke to Democrats at the West Carrollton branch of the Dayton Metro Library.

Kucinich, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and 2008, believes he can bring Democrats who voted for President Donald Trump back to the fold.

Kucinich says he can win race for governor

RELATED: Ex-Congressman Dennis Kucinich to launch bid for governor

“When I look at my own congressional district the Democrats who went for Trump were concerned about trade, were concerned about war, were concerned about corruption in the government and the Democratic Party lost them. I can reach back to them and bring them back,” Kucinich said.

Democratic candidate Connie Pillich welcomes Kucinich to the race, said Eric Goldman, campaign manager for Pillich, a former state representative from Cincinnati.

“With that said, there is nothing in Kucinich's record that would demonstrate an appeal to Trump voters, swing voters, or disaffected Republicans,” Goldman said. “The Connie Pillich-Scott Schertzer team is the only Democratic ticket in this primary that has a history of appealing to voters from across the aisle and a track record of winning tough campaigns.”

Kucinich, 71, lost his congressional seat in 2012 to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, after the Republican redistricting of 2011 put the two Democrats in the same district. He enters the governor’s race relatively late but has been traveling the state over the last year denouncing public funding for charter schools and in support of state Issue 2, the prescription drug ballot issue that failed in November.

RELATED: Kucinich goes after charter schools in Dayton area visit

With the Feb. 7 filing deadline for the May 8 primary approaching, the Democratic and Republican fields are solidifying.

Last week Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley withdrew from the Democratic primary and threw her support behind Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a former Ohio treasurer and attorney general. Cordray’s running mate is former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron.

Richard Cordray and Betty Sutton

RELATED: Dayton Mayor Whaley drops out of governor’s race

Also in the race are Pillich of  Cincinnati, and her running mate and Marion mayor, Schertzer; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, who is running with Ohio Board of Education member Stephanie Dodd; and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, whose running mate is Chantelle E. Lewis, a Lorain elementary school principal.

RELATED: O’Neill’s boast of sexual liaisons brings calls for his resignation

Mike DeWine and Jon Husted

The ballot is less crowded on the Republican side where Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate, Secretary of State Jon Husted, are opposed by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and running mate Nathan Estruth, a Cincinnati businessman.

“We welcome Mr. Kucinich to the race. Our campaign looks forward to taking on whichever Democrat emerges from their crowded primary,” said Ryan Stubenrauch, campaign spokesperson for DeWine/Husted. “Mike DeWine and Jon Husted have the vision and plan to lead Ohio boldly into the future bringing more high-paying jobs, solving the opioid crisis and securing economic prosperity for all of Ohio.”

See more stories by Lynn Hulsey

U.S. Senate candidates Renacci and Brown spar over Trump’s comment about immigrants

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Ohio could have two redistricting proposals on ballots this year 

LGBT bill picks up support in Ohio

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 4:05 PM


            State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, says advocates for gay rights have pushed bills for nearly a decade to protect LGBT Ohioans against discrimination in housing and jobs. She thinks a bill this session may stand a chance. LAURA A. BISCHOFF/PHOTO
            Laura A. Bischoff
State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, says advocates for gay rights have pushed bills for nearly a decade to protect LGBT Ohioans against discrimination in housing and jobs. She thinks a bill this session may stand a chance. LAURA A. BISCHOFF/PHOTO(Laura A. Bischoff)

For nearly 10 years, advocates for gay rights have pushed for legal changes that would protect LGBT Ohioans from discrimination in housing, jobs and places of public accommodation, but in each legislative session the efforts have stalled.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said this time around, though, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce is backing the bill, giving her hope that it’s an idea whose time has come.

“Ohio should join the 21st century. It’s time, more than time — and protect all of her people, including those from the LBGT community. Passing House Bill 160 would be a great step forward. It would be good for business, Ohio’s economy and also, it’s the right thing to do,” said Antonio.

Related: Kasich to GOP: Get out of the 1980’s

She noted that the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and businesses have pledged to testify in favor of the bill later this month.

The push for House Bill 160 comes at the same time the Human Rights Campaign released a state-by-state report on laws and policies that affect individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for HRC, said the report grades states on what basic protections it provides residents and visitors when it comes to employment, housing, hate crimes, services to youths in foster care, bans on conversion therapy and other issues.

Ohio is among 28 states lacking non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in housing, employment and places of public accommodation, the report says. House Bill 160 would change the Ohio Civil Rights Law to add these protections and preserve all religious exemptions in current law, Antonio said.

Related: Does Ohio need a law protecting religious freedom?

The bill is backed by Ohio Business Competes, a coalition of some 300 businesses that support the changes.

While some employers and local communities have non-discrimination policies, Antonio said it’s time for a statewide law.

“Your ZIP Code should not determine whether you have equal rights and protections,” she said. “We should live in a state where someone can work in one community but decide to buy a home in another community and not look into their policies to find out whether or not their family will be welcome there. Come on, we can do better.”