Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced today he will direct Ohio’s county boards of election to adopt standardized early voting hours.
In-person early voting begins on Oct. 2. In a directive, Husted said he wants the first three weeks to be kept to standard voting hours, or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. An exception is made for Oct. 9, which will have voting hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., to make up for polls being closed on Oct. 8 in observance of a state holiday.
For the final two weeks of early voting, Husted said he wants hours extended to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Another exception is made for the final day of early voting — Nov. 2 — that has voting hours last from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. because state law requires all early voting ends at 6 p.m. on Nov. 2.
The polls will still not be open on weekends throughout the entire process, however.
The news comes amid a state issue that has gained national attention in recent weeks. Democrats have been accusing state Republicans of suppressing Democratic votes by extending in-person early voting hours in predominantly Republican counties and keeping shorter hours in predominantly Democratic counties.
Ohio Democrats are not pleased with the call to uniform rules. Jerid Kurtz, spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party, told CityBeat yesterday that the call for uniform rules is “pure silliness.” He said counties have differences, so they need different voting rules. He called on Husted to stop worrying about uniformity and county budgets and instead worry about managing elections and “empowering people to vote.”
Today, Democrats released another statement lashing out at the uniform rules. In a statement released shortly after Husted's press conference, Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said the new directive was limiting voting access by eliminating weekend voting and slashing hours.
However, the directive will actually extend early voting
hours in the predominantly Democratic counties of Lucas, Cuyahoga,
Summit and Franklin that were bound to the old hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the entire early voting process.
Just two days before the general election, President Barack Obama made his case to 13,500 people packed into the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena and 2,000 in an overflow room.
Obama cast the race in comparisons to the previous two presidents, comparing his policies with those of Bill Clinton and equating Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s plans with those of George W. Bush.
“So stay with me then,” Obama said. “We’ve got ideas that work, and we’ve got ideas that don’t work, so the choice should be pretty clear.”
With less than 48 hours before polls open on Election Day, a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll had Obama and his Republican challenger locked in a statistical dead heat. However the same poll showed Obama with a slight edge in Ohio, up 48 percent to Romney’s 44 percent.
Obama touted his first-term accomplishments, including ending the war in Iraq; ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy preventing homosexuals from serving openly in the military; and overhauling the country’s health care system.
“It’s not just about policy, it’s about trust. Who do you trust?” the president asked, flanked by a sea of supporters waving blue “Forward” signs.
“Look, Ohio, you know me by now. You may not agree with every decision I’ve made, Michelle doesn’t always agree with me. You may be frustrated with the pace of change … but I say what I mean and I mean what I say.”
Nonpartisan political fact-checker PolitiFact on Nov. 3 took a look at Obama’s record on keeping his campaign promises from 2008. The group rated 38 percent as Kept, 16 percent Compromised and 17 percent Broken.
Twice during his speech the president was interrupted by audience members shouting from the stands.
The first was a man on the balcony level of the arena interrupted, shouting anti-abortion slogans and waving a sign showing mutilated fetuses before being dragged out by about five law enforcement officers. Both were drowned out by supporters.
Music legend Stevie Wonder opened the rally for Obama, playing a number of his hits, opening up “Superstition” with a refrain of “on the right track, can’t go back.”
Wonder discussed abortion policy between songs and urged Ohioans who had not already voted to do so either early on Monday or Election Day.
So far, 28 percent of Ohio voters have already cast their ballots. CNN reports that those votes favor Obama 63/35, according to public polling.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Romney campaigned before an estimated crowd of 25,000 in Pennsylvania, according to the Secret Service.
Political rallies always draw a number of the loyal opposition, and this late-evening appearance was no different. Only five people protested near the line to the arena, but what they lacked in number they attempted to make up for in message.
One large sign read “Obama: 666” and another “Obama is the Beast,” alluding to a character in the Christian Biblical book of Revelation.
A man who only identified himself as Brooks carried a large anti-abortion sign that showed pieces of a dismembered fetus.
“I’m here to stand up for the innocent blood that has been shed in this land to the tune of 56 million,” Brooks said. He said he was opposed to the politics of both major party presidential candidates.
“I pray for Barack Obama because his beliefs are of the Antichrist, just like Romney,” Brooks said.
Brooks said his message for those in line was for them to vote for Jesus — not on the ballot, but through their actions and through candidates that espoused Christian beliefs.
“Obama is not going to change things, Romney is not going to change things,” Brooks said. “In the last days there are many Christs, but not the Christ of the Bible. The Christ of the Bible is not for killing children, is not for homosexual marriage.”
Just a day before the approval of Ohio’s new district maps, Tom Whatman, a Boehner staffer, sent an email to Adam Kincaid, a staffer for the National Republican Congressional Committee, and others in charge of redistricting. In the back-and-forth, Whatman asks for a “small carve out” to include a manufacturing business in the congressional district for Rep. Jim Renacci, a Republican who has received support from the business in the past. Before 13 minutes had passed, Kincaid replied to Whatman, securing the change with no questions asked.
“Thanks guys,” Whatman replied. “Very important to someone important to us all.”
The Voters First graph, which mocks the 13-minute exchange with the title “Jim Renacci: The 13 Minute Man,” can be found here. The full emails, which were released by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting in a Dec. 2011 report, can be seen online here.Jim Slagle, who served as manager for the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, says the emails are indicative of a redistricting process that is controlled entirely by “political insiders.” Slagle says the interests of the people come second to politics under the current system.
If Issue 2 is approved by voters this November, the redistricting process will be placed in the hands of an independent citizens commission. Under the current system, the state government is tasked with redrawing district boundaries every 10 years. Republicans have controlled the process four out of six times since 1967, which is when the process was first enacted into law. The political party in charge typically redraws districts in a politically favorable manner in a process known as “gerrymandering.”
On Saturday, Rep. Steve Chabot, who represents Cincinnati in the U.S. House of Representatives, told supporters to vote against Issue 2. Chabot is enormously benefiting off the current redistricting process. Cincinnati’s district was redrawn to include Warren County, which has more rural voters that typically vote Republican, and less of Cincinnati, which has more urban voters that typically vote Democrat. The shift to less urban voters is emphasized in this graph by MapGrapher:
A Democrat who was challenging Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann in this fall’s election has left the race due to work commitments.
Greg Harris, a West Sider who is a former Cincinnati city councilman, said Monday night that a contract awarded to his educational consulting firm means he will be spending a large amount of time outside of the region. Harris’ firm, New Governance Group, recently was awarded a major contract with a nonprofit group in Delaware that seeks to improve public education in that state.
“When I filed (to run for commissioner), I filed in all sincerity,” Harris said. “It was before I got this contract.”
He added, “I feel bad. This was a race I really wanted to run in, but with all the traveling, I’m not equipped to give it the time it deserves.”
Harris, 40, announced his candidacy in early December, when he filed paperwork to run against Hartmann, a Republican incumbent who is seeking his second term.
The Hamilton County Democratic Party now will be able to select a replacement for Harris on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Harris was appointed in January 2009 to Cincinnati City Council to fill the unexpired term of John Cranley, who was facing term limits. But Harris lost in an election that November, finishing 10th in balloting for the nine-member group, missing the final spot by about 3,400 votes. During his brief term, Harris angered the city’s police and firefighter unions by suggesting changes that he said would improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Through his consulting firm, Harris had served as public policy advisor for Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a national education philanthropy that seeds educational practices and policy reforms.
An Illinois native, Harris moved to the region in 1993 to attend graduate school at Miami University in Oxford. He stayed here after graduation and served from 2000-05 as executive director of Citizens for Civic Renewal, a nonprofit public advocacy group that promotes good government, volunteerism and civic involvement.
Harris ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) twice, in 2002 and 2004. He also was prepared to challenge Hartmann for the Hamilton County Commission seat in 2008 until Democratic Party leaders cut a deal with the GOP and asked Harris to step aside and let Hartmann run unopposed. A reluctant Harris complied.
A judicial conduct panel ruled this week that the primary election opponent of a local Municipal Court judge knowingly misrepresented himself in campaign materials.
The panel decided that retired appellate court judge William O’Neill from Cleveland left the impression that he is a current judge in a two-sided campaign card he distributed. In fact, O’Neill now works as an emergency room nurse at a hospital.
O’Neill and Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon Rucker are vying to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Ohio Supreme Court.
Whoever wins the March 6 primary election will face off against incumbent Justice Robert Cupp, a Republican, in the November general election.
The three-judge panel upheld the complaint filed by Richard Dove, secretary of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. The panel said O’Neill’s campaign card refers to him nine times as “judge,’’ while describing him as “former court of appeals judge’’ once.
“The fact that he is known as judge because of his tenure on the 11th District Court of Appeals and that as a retired judge he is known as a judge, he nevertheless as a judicial candidate is prohibited from using the term ‘judge’ before his name in campaign materials since he does not currently hold that office,’’ wrote Guernsey County Common Pleas Judge David Ellwood, who chaired the three-judge panel.
The panel recommended no discipline for O’Neill other than he stop distributing the card. A 5th District Court of Appeals judge must appoint a panel of five fellow appellate judges within the next week to consider the lower panel’s recommendations and make a final decision.
Rucker is the Ohio Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, but O’Neil has twice before — in different races — had party leaders rescind an endorsement and give it to him.
O’Neill has run twice for the state Supreme Court — in 2004 and 2006 — and then Congress in 2008 and 2010. Although he has won in the primaries, O’Neill has lost in the general elections.
Local Democratic Party leaders are criticizing O’Neill, stating he is moving too slowly to remove misleading material from his campaign website.
“While Mr. O’Neill promised Monday to make the required corrections, as of this writing on Wednesday, Feb. 29, his website remains unchanged,” Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke wrote in a statement issued Wednesday night.
“This is not the kind of conduct we as Democrats should condone by any of our candidates, especially candidates running for a seat on the highest court of our state,” Burke added. “Ohioans deserve a Supreme Court candidate who not only understands the law, but respects it as well.”
For more on the O’Neill/Rucker race, see this week’s issue of CityBeat.
The biggest deficit plug will come from privatizing parking services, which the city manager’s office says will bring in $40 million in one-time revenue and additional revenue over 30 years as part of a long-term contract. About $21 million of the initial lump-sum payment will be used to close the 2013 budget deficit.
In the past, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld voiced concerns about privatizing parking: “I’ll await more details, but it seems penny-wise and pound-foolish to forgo a steady revenue stream for a lump-sum payment. Cincinnati needs a structurally balanced budget and can’t keep relying on one-time sources. Places like Chicago and Indianapolis have seen their parking rates more than double following privatization — that’s a bad deal for citizens, and something we don’t need while we’re experiencing an urban renaissance.”
Another concern is whether the city’s current parking employees will be laid off if parking services are sold. Dohoney said the deal for privatization will require the winning bidder to interview all American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) workers. Full-time workers who do not join the winning bidder will be hired in other parts of the city government. “No AFSCME employee will be placed on the street if they are full-time as a result of this effort,” Dohoney claimed.
The rest of the deficit plug will come in cuts, cost shifting, savings, revenue, embedded growth and one-time sources. Among these, notable items include the elimination of the Mounted Patrol for the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) and a $610,770 reduction in Human Services Funding. A few departments and programs, including the CPD, will face further minor cuts.
The city manager’s office claims the changes in the budget are necessary mostly due to changes at the state level. Specifically, the state government cut the Local Government Fund by 50 percent and eliminated the tangible personal property tax reimbursement and estate tax; altogether, losing these sources of revenue cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in the 2013 budget.
Facing the large deficit, Dohoney said he wanted to avoid across-the-board cuts and other major cuts to growth and investment programs: “You’re not competitive if that’s your approach.”
The budget also includes some spending increases. The Focus 52 Program will focus on redevelopment projects in Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. If it’s successful, the new program will “grow the city’s revenue base, create new jobs and/or increase the population of the city,” according to the city manager’s office.
In other budget news, the city manager will also send out the Tentative Tax Budget proposal, which sets the millage rate for the operating property tax. That proposal seeks to raise the millage rate from 5.9 mills to 6.1 mills, which will provide an estimated $31 million in revenue, up from $23.5 million. For a $100,000 residential property, that means a tax hike of $46.
UPDATE: Secretary of State Jon Husted said he will make a decision about what to do with the court's ruling after the weekend. It is possible Husted could decide to keep all polling booths closed on the three days. While the court ruling makes it so boards of election can't allow only military voters to vote on the weekend and Monday before Election Day, it does give boards of election the choice to close down on the three days. Husted could decide to open or close all boards of election on the days with uniform policy like he's done in the past. Such policy could eliminate those three voting days for everyone, including military voters.
The Republican-controlled state government appealed the original ruling after a federal judge ruled in favor of President Barack Obama's campaign and the Democrats and expanded in-person early voting to include the three extra days. The appeals court's ruling upholds the previous decision.
In the past few months, Republicans have insisted early voting should not be expanded further due to racial politics and cost concerns. That prompted Obama and the Democrats to take the state government to court, much to the dismay of local Republicans that voiced concerns about the lawsuit making voting lines too long for military voters.
With this appeal, Republicans are now running out of options for blocking expanded in-person early voting. Previously, Husted sent directives to county boards of election to not listen to the initial ruling, but Husted quickly backed down when the federal judge involved in the ruling called him to court.
A local conservative group is making a lot of use of member and lawyer Chris Finney. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was involved in two lawsuits filed this week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and another regarding Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).
Criticism of the Blue Ash Airport deal is not new for COAST. The group has repeatedly criticized the deal, largely because as much as $26 million from the deal will be used to fund Cincinnati’s $110 million streetcar. In the past, COAST has repeatedly characterized the streetcar as a “boondoggle.”
The deal between Blue Ash and Cincinnati is not new, but it did get reworked earlier this year. In 2006, the $37.5 million deal had Cincinnati selling Blue Ash some land on the Blue Ash Airport property, which Blue Ash would then use to build a park. Blue Ash voters approved the deal, which contained a 0.25 percent earnings tax hike, in a two-to-one margin.
When Cincinnati couldn’t get a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the city stopped working on the airport as it became too costly. The city then tried to shift the proceeds from the deal to the Cincinnati streetcar, but the FAA said funding must be used for airports since the property is classified as an airport.
Eventually, Cincinnati asked Blue Ash to rework the deal. The plan was Blue Ash would rescind the deal, and then Cincinnati would officially close down the airport and resell the land to Blue Ash while it’s no longer classified as an airport.
At first, city officials said $11 million of the opened-up money would go to the streetcar and $26 million would go to municipal projects. Since then, the city has shifted $15 million of that municipal project funding — supposedly temporarily — to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route, at least until the city and energy company can work out an ongoing feud.
The reworked deal, which was approved by Blue Ash City Council in a 6-1 vote on Aug. 9, seemed like a win-win for both sides. Cincinnati would get more funding for ongoing projects, and Blue Ash netted $2.25 million from the deal — $250,000 to cover fees for Blue Ash’s new park and $2 million was subtracted from the deal since Blue Ash would no longer have to match the FAA grant.
But COAST does not approve. The organization doesn’t want any funding redirected to the streetcar, and it claims the reworked deal is not allowed. The lawsuit filed by Blue Ash resident Jeffrey Capell and Finney cites a section of the Blue Ash City Charter that disallows some contracts: “No contract shall be made for a term longer than five years, except that franchises for public utility services and contracts with other governmental units for service to be received or given may be made for any period no longer than twenty years.”
Mark Vander Laan, Blue Ash’s city solicitor, says the city charter section the lawsuit is referencing is irrelevant. He argues the deal is not a contract as the city charter defines it; instead, it’s a mortgage and debt instrument. In the Blue Ash City Charter, there’s another section that deals with debt instruments, and that’s what the rescinded deal falls under, according to Vander Laan. He says the city would not function as it does today if the lawsuit’s claim was correct: “If that were the case, all the bonds we’ve ever issued would have been incorrect.”
Vander Laan says the real issue here is disapproval of the streetcar, not any legal technicalities: “They may have a complaint about the streetcar, but that’s not the city of Blue Ash’s issue at all. We don’t think it’s even an appropriate basis to challenge this.”
He added, “Frankly, if somebody had an issue with (the deal), they should have taken that issue back in 2006 and 2007.” That’s when Blue Ash voters first approved the airport deal, but back then, the money wasn’t going to the streetcar, which didn’t even exist at the time.
In another legal battle, COAST filed a lawsuit against CPS over staff allegedly campaigning for Issue 42, a ballot initiative that will renew a CPS levy voters approved in 2008. The case goes back to 2002, when Tom Brinkman, chairman of COAST, sued CPS for “illegal and unconstitutional use of school property for campaign purposes,” according to the lawsuit. That case ended in a settlement, which forced CPS to enter into a “COAST Agreement” that says, “CPS will strictly enforce a policy of preventing … Other Political Advertisements on CPS Property.”
But COAST now says that agreement has been broken, and the
lawsuit cites emails as evidence. The emails show staff promoting voter
registration drives, which aren’t directly linked to Issue 42, and
staff offering to contribute and volunteer to the campaign. In the
emails, there are a few instances of Jens Sutmoller, Issue 42’s campaign
coordinator, asking CPS staff to give him personal emails, which shows
he was trying to avoid breaking any rules.
In CityBeat’s experience, CPS officials have been pretty strict with following the settlement with COAST. In a Sept. 20 email, Janet Walsh, spokesperson for CPS, told CityBeat she could not provide some levy-related information during work hours: “Yes, but due to constraints about doing levy-related work on work time (we can't), it may have to wait until I can get on my home computer.”
COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. In CityBeat’s
in-depth look into CPS and Issue 42 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue
of Oct. 3), Brinkman defended COAST’s position by saying they’re not
necessarily against the school getting funding. COAST is more
interested in holding the school accountable: “It’s a five-year levy.
The reason we have five-year levies is so the public can gauge after
four or four and a half years how the entity where the taxes are going
to is doing with the money.” In that sense, for COAST, it’s important to
bring the levy renewal to voters as late in the game as possible —
November 2013 in this case. CityBeat this week endorsed a "Yes" vote on Issue 42 here.
Criticism of CPS levies is also not new for COAST. The group campaigned against last year’s new, permanent $49.5 million levy, which CPS said it needed to meet new technology needs and keep some buildings open.
“Dealing in this state, for example, you think so much about
the painful days in the deep South — the overt schemes to deny the right to
vote,” Jackson said on Tuesday, the last day to register to vote in Ohio.
“We saw Ohio as a kind of beacon of light, the beacon of hope once we ran across the river coming north. This year we’ve seen Ohio and Pennsylvania take the lead in trying to purge voters and suppress the vote to determine the outcome.”
Jackson’s comments came on the same day Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court the Six Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to allow early in-person voting on the three days before Election Day.
The three days had previously only applied to military personnel and their families.
Republicans like Husted have cited cost as the reason to not allow in-person voting on the three days before the election. But in an Aug. 19 email to The Columbus Dispatch, Franklin County Republican Party chairman Doug Preisse said “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
Pennsylvania, meanwhile, tried to require voters take a photo ID with them into the polls. A state judge blocked the law from going into effect for the 2012 election.
Jackson said restrictions as to who can vote when and where undermine the purpose of democracy.
“Open access, free, transparent voting makes democracy real,” he said.
Flanked by a tapestry portraying President Barack Obama, Jackson touted the president’s accomplishments in his first term and urged those assembled to give him a second.
Jackson was in Toledo Oct. 5 pushing early voting. He said he was in Cincinnati because “Ohio matters” and he saw it as a way to penetrate Appalachia because “poverty is not just a black problem.”