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After boasting of sex with 50 women, Supreme Court judge apologizes

Published: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 12:47 PM

Ohio Supreme Court Justice William M. O Neill. JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Ohio Supreme Court Justice William M. O Neill. JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

An Ohio Supreme Court justice is apologizing for a recent Facebook post in which he boasted of having sex with about 50 women over 50 years.

“There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to admit you were wrong,” Justice William O’Neill posted on his Facebook page Sunday.

“It is Sunday morning and I am preparing to go to church and get right with God,” the Democrat wrote. “But first I have to get right with my family, my friends, and the thousands of strangers who have been hurt by my insensitive remarks.

RELATEDOhio Supreme Court Justice boasts of bedding 50 women as part of defense of ‘all heterosexual males’

“I am sorry. I have damaged the national debate on the very real subject of sexual harassment, abuse and unfortunately rape. It is not a laughing matter. It wasn’t when I prosecuted sexual misconduct for the state of Ohio, and it is not now,” the justice wrote.

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He went on to apologize to his daughters and his sisters, saying, “Please accept my public apology for dragging you into this matter. You deserved better treatment than this. I love you, respect you, and yes, I was wrong. Thank you for loving me enough to stand up to my departure from a loving life.”

O’Neill’s earlier remarks drew international attention and sparked a reaction across the Internet. On Friday evening, O’Neill, also a candidate for Ohio governor, said observers should “lighten up.”

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“This is how Democrats remain in the minority,” he wrote on Facebook Friday evening.

O’Neill has since removed his original Facebook post, which was written after charges of harassment first surfaced late last week against Minnesota senator Al Franken, a fellow Democrat.

Reaction to his statement Sunday on Facebook was steady. One correspondent said she planned to vote for O’Neill anyway; others accepted the apology or told him, “too little, too late.”

“You’re an idiot,” wrote one commenter on the justice’s Facebook page, Sue Castner.

Husted wants new voting machines in every county in Ohio

Published: Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 1:23 PM

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is calling for state legislators to spend $118 million replacing voting machines in Ohio’s 88 counties. Here early voters cast their ballots on electronic voting machines at the Montgomery County Board of Elections in 2016 . LYNN HULSEY/staff writer
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is calling for state legislators to spend $118 million replacing voting machines in Ohio’s 88 counties. Here early voters cast their ballots on electronic voting machines at the Montgomery County Board of Elections in 2016 . LYNN HULSEY/staff writer

The state should pay $118 million to upgrade voting machines in all 88 Ohio counties, covering 100 percent of the cost for those willing to use paper ballots and optical scan technology, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

“The last time Ohio replaced its voting machines, the iPhone hadn’t been released, people still rented movies from Blockbuster, and social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist,” Husted said in a Thursday news release. “It’s time to make updating our voting equipment a priority.”

Most of Ohio’s voting machines were purchased in 2005 and 2006 and were paid for almost entirely with federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money. Husted and others doubt the current Congress will allocate money to pay for replacing the equipment.

RELATED: How does the voting process work in Ohio

“It’s time for the state’s leaders to step forward and approve a funding plan to replace Ohio’s aging voting technology,” Husted said in a Dec. 14 letter to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and legislative leaders.

Husted wants to see the equipment purchased in 2018 so that there can be a test run in 2019 before the presidential election of 2020.

RELATED: Ohio will not give private voter data to Trump 2016 election commission

Husted’s term ends at the end of 2018 and he is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in 2018.

State Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copely, and State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, are running in the 2018 election for secretary of state.

Earlier this year LaRose introduced a bill that would have had the state pay 80 percent of the cost of the machines and have local governments pay for the rest of the cost. That bill is pending.

“Our members have been discussing the issue for some time, including the potential for some funding for voting machines to come from the capital budget process,” said John Fortney, spokesman for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus.

Husted’s plan would have the state pick up all of the cost unless counties want something more expensive than than optical scan machines with paper ballots. The Ohio Department of Administrative Services has estimated it would cost $118 million to buy that type of equipment for all counties.

RELATED: Jon Husted: Replacing Ohio’s voting machines will be costly

Currently about half the counties use optical scan equipment, including Clark, Champaign, Warren and Preble counties. The other half use electronic touch screen equipment with memory cards and a paper record of votes. Locally, Montgomery, Greene, Butler, Miami and Darke counties use electronic touch screen machines.

Under Husted’s plan the counties would pay the difference if new touch screen machines cost more than optical scan.

Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said the cost of electronic touch screen machines is expected to be about $200 million if all 88 counties purchased them.

Harsman and County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman both sit on a state task force looking at the voting machine issue.

“We are in full support of the need to replace our aging voting equipment. We are hopeful the state legislature will include in the capital bill funding to help counties financially with the replacement cost,” Harsman said.

RELATED: In 2014, group said U.S. voting machines needed to be replaced

He estimates it would cost Montgomery County $8 million to buy new electronic touch screen machines, which Harsman said offer advantages over optical scan equipment.

“So, depending on how much the state provides, the county would have to provide the difference,” Harsman said. “We have been saving from our budget each year for several years. We have approximately $1.2 million in our capital fund and hope to reach 2 million by the time we implement to help offset the financial burden on the county.”

On Thursday Clyde called for the state to mandate a secure paper-ballot system.

“Aging equipment that stores ballots electronically on memory cards must be replaced with systems that use full auditable, vote-marked paper ballots, Cylde said in a news release. “We must modernize to meet the cyber security challenges that are upon us.”

Montgomery County elections officials have said they are very confident in how well protected their electronic voting machines and memory cards are.

RELATED: What six experts say about election rigging

The issue of voting system and voting machine hacking was huge in 2016 after hackers, believed to be from Russia, attempted to gain access to voting systems in multiple states. Voting systems, which include online voter registration lists and final election results are online. Voting machines are not. In fact, federal law prohibits voting machines and the tabulation equipment used to count paper ballots and electronic voting machine memory cards from ever being connected to the internet.

RELATED: Hacking the ballot: How safe is your vote this November?

In Ohio the voting equipment, ballots and memory cards are kept under lock and key at county boards of elections and can only be accessed by a pair of staff members — one a Democrat and the other a Republican.

When results are tablulated on election night they are put on a thumb drive, provided by the secretary of state, that is then put into a dedicated computer to transmit the results to the state. That thumb drive is used just once to avoid contamination by any online bugs.

Backups of all results are kept by all the counties and the paper ballots and the electronic machines paper records are kept for a period of time until results have been verified and certified.

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Husted wants new voting machines in Ohio by 2020 presidential election

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 4:22 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 4:24 PM

Husted wants new voting machines in Ohio by 2020 presidential election Getty Image
Husted wants new voting machines in Ohio by 2020 presidential election Getty Image

Ohio’s elections chief wants counties to modernize their voting machines before the 2020 presidential election, and he’s urging the governor and state lawmakers to foot much of the bill.

RELATED: Husted says replacing voting machines will be costly

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted sent a letter to Gov. John Kasich, his budget director and state legislative leaders on Thursday seeking $118 million in state capital funds for the project.

“While I am confident that the storage, maintenance and operating procedures used by the boards of elections will ensure that these systems remain secure and accurate through the 2018 election cycle, Ohio’s leaders must act soon to ensure an orderly transition to newer equipment well before the 2020 presidential general election,” he wrote.

Ohio is a bellwether political state with about 7.9 million registered voters. Donald Trump, a Republican, won the state’s 2016 presidential contest against Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, by 447,000 votes, more than 8 percentage points.

Husted said the $118 million would cover 100 percent of the “lowest estimated cost” for new equipment: optical scan machines his office’s review found to cost least among state and federally certified machines.

Counties that wanted to buy more expensive equipment — say, with the most digital bells and whistles — would need to cover the difference with local funds. Those few counties that have already upgraded could be reimbursed for those expenses up to the lowest estimated cost figure, Husted said.

Husted, a candidate for lieutenant governor, called the plan forward-looking, cost-effective and fair to counties that need help funding the improved technology.

Husted said he’s been calling for years for the aging equipment to be modernized and the situation has become urgent. He wants counties to begin buying equipment by 2018 so it can be in place for use as a sort of test run in the less hectic 2019 election.

Ohio counties all use either touchscreen or optical machines, which feature optical scanners that read paper ballots and tally results, but voting officials say technological advances are needed to bring their inner workings up to date. They say using the current machines is like having an old flip phone in an age of smartphones.

“The last time Ohio replaced its voting machines, the iPhone hadn’t been released, people still rented movies from Blockbuster and social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist,” Husted said. “It’s time to make updating our voting equipment a priority.”

RELATED: Hacking the ballot: How safe is your vote this November?

Husted’s recommendation comes as legislators and the Republican Kasich administration are exploring their own ideas for the best path forward to newer machines before the next big election. Ohio’s capital budget process begins in January.

Aaron Ockerman, a lobbyist for the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said the organization supports Husted’s effort.

“It’s a viable plan, it’s a thoughtful plan and the thing I’m most pleased about is it does preserve the counties’ ability to choose their own voting machines,” he said.

Ockerman said new optical scan machines, unlike older ones, save a digital image of each ballot that can be useful when confirming vote tallies. He said the modernization would also allow counties to replace mechanical equipment that’s gotten old and worn out.

He said about a dozen of Ohio’s 88 counties have gotten new machines within the past three or four years, but even those machines could probably stand to be upgraded by 2020.

- By Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press

Ohioans who lose driver’s license get help from lawmakers

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 6:09 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 11:27 AM

Ohioans who lose driver’s license get help from Ohio lawmakers. Getty Image
Staff Writer
Ohioans who lose driver’s license get help from Ohio lawmakers. Getty Image(Staff Writer)

A bill that would temporarily allow some Ohioans who have lost their driver’s license to regain it without paying a reinstatement fee passed the Ohio House of Representatives on Wednesday.

“The way that the system would change under this bill would eliminate kind of a debtors’ prison,” said State Rep. John E. Barnes, Jr., D-Cleveland, the bill’s co-sponsor. 

“This bill will hopefully provide people with an opportunity to have a fresh start.”

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, was the only member to vote no on the House Bill 336.

“Amnesty is a bad idea, especially for those convicted of street racing or theft of gasoline,” Antani said. “While I understand there are some people who fall into an insurmountable debt due to minor traffic violations, street racing and theft of gasoline should not have been included as eligible offenses for this relief program.”

The bill, which passed 78-1, would provide a six-month “amnesty” period and eligibility requirements for people to get a fee reduction or waiver of driver license reinstatement fees. It now heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

It is one of at least three bills pending in the state legislature that attempt to address the problem of driver license suspensions that leave some people unable to get to work and so unable to pay the reinstatement fees required to get their licenses back.

RELATED: Changes sought as driver suspensions pile up

Drivers in Ohio can lose their license for a variety of driving offenses, such as driving under the influence and driving without insurance, as well as actions that have nothing to do with driving, including non-payment of child support, dropping out of high school, and skipping a court date.

“It defies logic that you would take away their means of getting to work so they can earn money to pay their child support or their court fines, said Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, who is co-sponsoring a separate bill that would would automatically allow limited driving privileges to necessary places like work and school for those whose driver’s license is suspended for issues unrelated to driving or using a vehicle for criminal purposes.

Butler said he supported the bill that passed Wednesday because it begins a needed process of looking at the state’s charges for license reinstatement, which he said are taxes disguised as a fee.

“Whenever you have a fee that is more than the cost to run the service, it’s a tax. It’s generating money. And in this case it has a disproportionate impact on certain individuals,” Butler said.

Under the bill passed Wednesday eligibility for license reinstatement fee reduction or waiver would be limited to those who have had their license suspended for at least 18 months, can demonstrate proof of indigence, have paid all other fees and penalties and completed court sanctions, said Carly McCain, legislative aide to Barnes.

Those eligible cannot have lost their license due to non-payment of child support, or offenses involving drugs, alcohol, violence or crimes of a sexual nature, she said.

RELATED: Butler County child support offering amnesty program

“It is our goal to create a reasonable, practical, and measured attempt to make sure that Ohioans are legal to drive with a valid driver’s license and insurance while driving through our neighborhoods and on our interstates,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, State Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, in a news release issued after the vote.

Last year 1.1 million Ohioans had their driver’s license suspended for one or more reasons. That total is nearly 12 percent of those old enough to drive in the state.

Ohio law allows for multiple suspensions of a license and the average number of suspensions per driver was 2.96 in 2016, according to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. All but three types of suspension come with a reinstatement fee, ranging from $40 to $650, and people who get multiple suspensions can wind up with reinstatement fees in the thousands of dollars.

In the Senate a bill introduced by State Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, would permit judges to impose community service in lieu of paying reinstatement fees. The only Republican co-sponsor of that bill is State Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima.

“There’s this permanent underclass we’ve created,” Huffman said in an earlier interview. “If you’re $4,000 or $5,000 down and that’s what it takes to get your driver’s license, you just don’t do it.”

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State senate bill adds 21 new specialty plates to the 269 already offered in Ohio

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 1:43 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 5:53 PM

Ohio offers a whopping 269 specialty license plates
Ohio offers a whopping 269 specialty license plates

UPDATE:

Ohioans will have an even larger number of specialty license plates to choose from under a bill that will be sent to Ohio Gov. John Kasich for his signature.

The Ohio Senate on Wednesday added 21 new specialty license plates to the 269 already available to Ohio drivers.

The Senate concurred with changes to a larger bill on state highway names and Wednesday’s vote means the bill goes to Ohio Gov. John Kasich for his signature.

The newest plates include ones benefiting the Lions Club, Nationwide Children’s cancer research, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuse and a variety of schools and other organizations.

ORIGINAL STORY

Do you want to broadcast to the world your love for wildlife or amateur radio? Corvettes? Smokey Bear? Superman? The Cincinnati Reds?

What better way to be seen than your license plate.

Ohio has a specialty license plate for just about anything you might want to support if you are willing to pony up some extra cash when you renew your plates each year. There are also a variety of no-cost specialty plates for the military, people with disabilities, transport companies and government or publicly-owned entities.

RELATED: With driver’s license suspensions soaring, lawmakers seek solutions

There are 269 specialty plates in Ohio, the vast majority supporting organizations.

Motorists pay extra fees for most organization, pro-sports and collegiate plates. The fees vary and go as high as $50. For instance a collegiate plate, such as one for the University of Dayton, costs $25 on top of the regular cost of license plates and an extra Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) fee. The ubiquitous cardinal plate supporting wildlife costs $15.

The specialty plate fees are paid annually even if the motorist is just renewing with stickers.

RELATED: Ohio’s banned vanity license plates list

But not all organization specialty plates include a fee beyond the BMV fee. For example there is no extra charge for the One Nation Under God, Professional Firefighters or Phi Beta Sigma plates

Other types of specialty plates are also free, including those for disabilities and the 95 military license plates, which honor service in specific branches of the military or specific wars and conflicts as well as medals awarded for valor.

Organizations wanting to have a specialty plate, which nets revenue for their cause, must have 150 signatures from people intending to purchase the plate. Approval by the state legislature is also needed for specialty plates. Each year organizations must have at least 25 plate sales or the plate won’t be issued, according to the BMV.

RELATED: Bill would give judges more say on trying juveniles as adults

Lindsey Bohrer, spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, said organizations netted more than $3 million from the specialty plate fees in fiscal year 2017, which ended June 31, The Bureau of Motor Vehicles gets an extra $10 for organization specialty plates, a fee that generated $2.2 million in fiscal 2017, she said.

“The production cost for a pair of large embossed (regular) plates is $2.41. The production cost for a pair of large flat (specialty) plates is $5.89,” Bohrer said in an email.

Many of the organizations fight certain illnesses, such as cancer, and a variety of them help schools, Greek organizations, groups like the American Red Cross, or seek to preserve wildlife, forests and more.

Sports plates are only for Ohio teams, so if you are a Chicago Cubs fan you are out of luck.

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